Gasunie believes in a sustainable energy supply. For this reason, we participate in various initiatives.
Seeking smarter energy solutions, together with partners
New LNG services
LNG is a cleaner transport fuel than, for instance, diesel fuel. The shipping industry is facing increasingly stricter rules regarding the emission of sulphur. A ship running on LNG emits no sulphur oxide, and very little nitric oxide, if any. In this way, gas contributes significantly to reducing emissions in shipping. In the same way, trucks that use LNG also significantly reduce the emission of fine particles. Engines running on LNG produce less noise, reducing noise pollution. What is more, LNG, as a portable fuel, could be the solution for industries that need gas but are located in areas that lack a gas infrastructure.
Gate, the LNG import terminal, offers its customers opportunities to open up new markets. At the moment, new services and associated facilities are being developed to make this possible. In 2013, for instance, the focus was on facilitating break-bulk services, whereby LNG is transhipped from the storage tanks of Gate onto smaller ships and trucks.
From 2013, Gate’s customers will be able not only to unload LNG but also to load LNG (known as ‘backloading’). Gate invested in the technical facilities required for this, and smaller boats can now be received for loading and unloading. Gate also constructed a truck-loading bay, where trucks can load LNG. In 2013, the first backloadings took place, and the first small ships were received. As planned, the truck-loading bay became operational on 21 January 2014.
The new services have been well-received and are leading to more activity at the terminal. We expect continued growth in break bulk, and, together with our Gate partner Vopak, and in close cooperation with Gate, we are therefore expanding our facilities still further.
At the moment, prices on the international LNG market are such that importing LNG for injection into GTS’s natural gas network or selling at TTF are often of little interest to Gate customers.
In 2013, Gasunie LNG Holding BV took over 2.5% of the shares in Gate terminal BV from Dong Energy. Gasunie’s total interest in the terminal now amounts to 47.5%.
To enable the transition towards a more sustainable energy supply, new solutions are needed for the storage and transport of energy. The supply of electricity from wind and solar power varies greatly, depending on weather conditions. Sometimes there is too much; and sometimes there is too little. Power-to-gas, in combination with the existing gas infrastructure, offers a solution for this problem. In an electrolysis installation, electricity generated from wind can be used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. By combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide, even methane can be produced. This is a process that is clean and sustainable.
Both the hydrogen and the methane can then be fed into the gas infrastructure. In this way, surpluses of sustainable energy can be stored for later use, and overload of the electricity networks can be prevented. Gas is easy to store, and it is also the cheapest form of energy to transport. This creates a new role for the natural gas infrastructure, namely as a place of storage and a means of transport for sustainable energy. We regard this as an important step towards ensuring the sustainability of tomorrow’s energy supply.
Power-to-gas initiative in Schleswig-Holstein
In Germany, various initiatives are currently being taken to integrate power-to-gas as a new technology into the energy system. The new German government has set long-term objectives to stimulate the development of power-to-gas. DVGW, the German technical and scientific association for gas and water, of which Gasunie Deutschland is a member, has carried out a feasibility study into power-to-gas. Although the results were positive, substantial steps still need to be taken.
In addition, Gasunie Deutschland started a joint project with ARGE Netz, which is supported by the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Energy Transition, Agriculture, the Environment and Spatial Planning. The aim of this project is to develop plans for the large-scale development and deployment of power-to-gas in Schleswig-Holstein.
Development of smart grids
The share in the future fuel mix of small-scale, sustainable energy sources (such as wind and solar power, or biomass in the form of green gas) is expected to increase. Combining these different energy systems ensures that the capacity of these sources is exploited to the fullest extent. These linked, digitally controlled energy networks (or smart grids) are essential for achieving a proper match between energy supply and demand. Thanks to the great flexibility with which it can be deployed, natural gas plays an important role in these smart grids.
The development of smart-grid concepts is leading to a smarter use of energy sources and infrastructure at relatively low costs. Smart grids enable consumers to manage their home energy needs and select their own energy source: sustainable energy if available, and otherwise the least polluting fossil fuel, i.e., natural gas. In due course, consumers will be able to use smart grids to generate – very efficiently and sustainably – their own electricity, using gas. Thanks to their connection to the gas infrastructure, they will not need to invest heavily in a new electricity infrastructure – something that will be necessary in an all-electric house.
In 2013, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs launched Phase 2 of PMC in Groningen. In this pilot project, 40 households in the City of Groningen are testing the unique concept of a smart grid that makes use of both gas and electricity. Gasunie is participating in this project, because we are convinced of the importance of decentralised energy solutions in a sustainable energy supply.
Phase 1 of PMC demonstrated that the technology of this type of smart grid works well. At the UN Conference for Sustainable Development in Brazil, Rio +20, it was pronounced one of the 100 most sustainable projects in the world.
Phase 2 of PMC is on a larger scale: the number of households has been doubled, and consumers have been given an opportunity to manage their energy consumption on the basis of cost and source of energy. This unique research project will provide insight into the extent to which the cost and the source of energy affects people in their choice and use of energy – a question that has not been explored in practice before.
Research into energy transition: EDGaR
EDGaR is a Dutch initiative aimed at bringing together the knowledge available in the Netherlands in the field of gas. It is the largest natural gas research project in Europe focusing on sustainability. The aim is to examine the options for a sustainable energy future, in the light of the Netherlands’ strong position in the gas market. Participants in EDGaR come from industry (Gasunie, GasTerra, Kiwa, Enexis, Liander and Stedin) and from scientific institutions (ECN, University of Groningen, Delft University of Technology and Hanze University of Applied Sciences). These partners have set up an innovative programme in which they themselves have invested € 22 million. In addition, the consortium has received a subsidy of € 22 million (€ 10 million from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, € 10 million from the European Fund for Regional Development, via the Northern Netherlands Provinces, and € 2 million from the Province of Groningen). EDGaR aspires to become an international centre of excellence in the field of gas and sustainability. Various EDGaR studies (e.g., into green gas and smart grids) were completed in 2013.
Testing ground for research into energy transition: EnTranCe
Gasunie is one of the initiators of the EnTranCe, a project we launched in 2013, together with BAM, GasTerra, Hanze University of Applied Sciences and Imtech. EnTranCe is a testing ground for energy systems of the future. At the Zernike Campus in Groningen, a practice-oriented living laboratory (EnTranCe) was set up – a facility where various functions of smart energy networks are being developed, tested and demonstrated in a real-life environment. Research is being carried out into the integration of wind and solar power, new decentralised energy systems, and smart energy management systems.
Together with other parties, we plan to expand EnTranCe with specific projects. In this way, we are contributing to the integration of innovative gas applications into the energy system of the future.