Gas infrastructure needed to scale up renewable gas to 270 bcm by 2050, enabling a decarbonised and renewables-based energy system at lowest costs

Gas for climate

  • Study published today finds that a smart combination of hydrogen and biomethane with electricity is the optimal way to decarbonise the energy system, with all energy ultimately becoming renewable.
  • Using around 2900 TWh or approximately 270 billion cubic metres (natural gas equivalent) of green hydrogen and renewable methane through existing gas infrastructure across the EU saves society €217 billion annually by 2050 compared to an energy system using a minimal amount of gas.
  • Substantial hydrogen, biomethane and power to methane production cost reductions are possible.

Today a study performed by Navigant for the Gas for Climate consortium was published. This study serves as a follow-up to our study published last year, including a greatly expanded scope and analysis.

While achieving 100% greenhouse gas 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 2900 TWh or approximately 270 billion cubic meters of renewable methane and hydrogen in a smart combination with renewable electricity saves society €217 billion across the energy system compared to reducing gas to an absolute minimum. 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 Navigant experts foresee an initial important role for blue hydrogen (carbon-neutral hydrogen produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage), 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.

In a joint statement, the CEOs of the nine Gas for Climate members said: “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.”

Notes for Editors

Gas for Climate was initiated in 2017 to analyse and create awareness about the role of renewable and low carbon gas in the future energy system in full compliance with the Paris Agreement target to limit global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius. To this end, the entire economy has to become (net) zero carbon by mid-century.

The Gas for Climate group consists of seven leading European gas transport companies (Enagás, Fluxys Belgium, Gasunie, GRTgaz, Open Grid Europe, Snam and Teréga) and two renewable gas industry associations (European Biogas Association and Consorzio Italiano Biogas). The CEOs of the nine members are 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.

The current study is a follow-up of a study published in 2018 by Ecofys, now part of Navigant, now covering almost the full EU energy system. The previous study covered part of the energy system and concluded that if a quarter of current gas demand is produced from sustainable renewable sources by 2050, this can achieve €138 billion of cost savings each year by 2050 across the EU compared to a ‘no gas’ scenario. The consortium presented and discussed the February 2018 study with many policymakers, industry stakeholders, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This led to valuable comments, suggestions, and questions. These discussions led to the conclusion that it would be beneficial to have a more comprehensive analysis to assess the most cost-optimal way to achieve a net zero emissions EU energy system, including an explicit analysis of the demand sectors industry and transport. The current report fulfils this need with an updated and expanded scope.

Ensuring a smart combination of renewable gas and electricity will be the optimal way to decarbonise the EU energy system, with the system becoming fully renewable. Renewable and low carbon gas, transported in existing grids, provides cost effective solutions for heating of buildings in case of cold spells, delivering high temperature heat and feedstocks in heavy industry, providing high density fuels in heavy transport, as well as enabling dispatchable power for periods with limited variable renewable electricity supply.

Renewable gas is all gas produced from renewable sources. This includes biomethane in the form of upgraded biogas produced by anaerobic digestion of agricultural biomass and other organic wastes, biomethane produced from thermal gasification of woody residues, hydrogen produced from renewable electricity, and synthetic methane produced from renewable hydrogen.

To accelerate decarbonisation, the Gas for Climate consortium believes that by 2050 any natural gas being used in the EU energy system in addition to renewable gas should be low carbon gas. Low carbon gas is blue hydrogen or combining natural gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). CCS can be applied in regions where it is technically feasible and politically and socially accepted. CCU can avoid emission if CO2 is permanently stored in products. Eventually, the energy system should become fully renewable.

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18 March 2019 - 11:32 CET