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Europe's gas infrastructure needed to scale up renewable gas – new study

The existing gas infrastructure in Europe is indispensable in transporting renewable and low carbon gas to the various demand sectors. Using around 2 900 TWh or approximately 270 billion cubic meters (bcm) of renewable methane and hydrogen in a smart combination with renewable electricity saves society EUR 217 billion across the energy system compared to reducing gas to an absolute minimum, a newly updated study performed by Navigant for the Gas for Climate consortium has found.

Quantities of gas used per sector and resulting energy system cost savings in the “optimised gas” scenario versus the “minimal gas” scenario. Cost savings per unit of energy are highest in the heating of buildings, where renewable gas is used combined with electricity in hybrid heat pumps in buildings that are connected to gas grids (graphic courtesy Navigant).

Commissioned by the Gas for Climate consortium and carried out by Navigant, the study “Gas for Climate: The optimal role for gas in a net-zero emissions energy systems” serves as a follow-up to a study published in February 2018 with a greatly expanded scope and analysis.

According to the study, achieving 100 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requires large quantities of renewable electricity, by far the most cost optimal role to decarbonise is by combining electricity with renewable gases such as hydrogen and biomethane. Renewable gas adds value in the heating of buildings, for high-temperature industrial heat, providing flexibility in electricity production alongside wind and solar and in heavy transport.

Using around 2 900 TWh or approximately 270 billion cubic meters (bcm) of renewable methane and hydrogen in a smart combination with renewable electricity saves society EUR 217 billion across the energy system compared to reducing gas to an absolute minimum.

Navigant experts foresee an initial important role for blue hydrogen, defined as “carbon-neutral hydrogen” produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS), to grow the developing hydrogen market including in new applications.

Towards 2050, with increased levels of renewable electricity and falling costs, renewable green hydrogen will gradually replace blue hydrogen, achieving, in the end, a fully renewable energy system. Therefore, the authors argue, the existing gas infrastructure is indispensable in transporting this renewable and low carbon gas to the various demand sectors. Gas infrastructure can be used to transport both hydrogen and biomethane in 2050.

The new Gas for Climate study shows that gas and its infrastructure will play an indispensable role in the future decarbonised energy system together with electricity infrastructures. We support the transition to a fully renewable energy system in which biomethane and green hydrogen will play a major role in a smart combination with renewable electricity while recognising that blue hydrogen can accelerate decarbonisation efforts in the coming decades, the CEOs of the nine Gas for Climate members (Marco Alverà, Snam; Jörg Bergmann, Open Grid Europe; Marcelino Oreja Arburúa, Enagás; Pascal De Buck, Fluxys Belgium; Han Fennema, Gasunie; Piero Gattoni, Consorzio Italiano Biogas; Dominique Mockly, Teréga; Harm Grobrügge, European Biogas Association; and Thierry Trouvé, GRTgaz) said.

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