Connecting past and future
About 50 years ago initiatives to build the Dutch gas system were put into place. Together with the gas of the Slochteren field and other gas fields, gas provided the Netherlands with a clean, affordable, and flexible fuel—which it still provides for us today. The latter—flexibility—is key to the transition to a sustainable energy system. Why? Because the matching between supply and demand of energy will become more challenging in the future, as intermittent sustainable energy sources—such as wind and solar—are increasingly implemented on a large scale.
Matching supply & demand
Energy management is always a balance between supply and demand; when the wind blows at full speed, there may be more energy available than is needed. Wind turbines could be curtailed, but that would be a waste of both energy and money. Today, gas-fired power plants already provide a great deal of the flexibility that is needed to match supply and demand. But with a large penetration of wind and solar power, this may become more difficult—if not impossible—in future.
The existing gas grid infrastructure could readily be used as an alternative to traditional storage options—batteries, compressed air storage, and reverse hydropower for example. Storage is key in maintaining the flexibility necessary in the electricity grid. How? For instance by converting a surplus of electric power into a gas, such as hydrogen or methane, that power can be accommodated in the gas infrastructure, allowing for long term storage on a large scale. This innovative process of using power to electrolyze water into carbon dioxide and hydrogen—which can be fed and stored in the gas grid—is called “Power to Gas” (P2G). The stored gas can later be converted into power, heat, or a chemical feedstock.
Catalyzing the energy transition
Our Gas Consulting Services business in the Netherlands offers state-of-the art research on P2G solutions. We are investigating different processes to convert power into gas, calculating and measuring what content of hydrogen or methane can be accommodated in current gas infrastructures, and also assessing what the effect would be on the pipelines themselves. Based on this research, the technical and economical feasibility of different P2G solutions is being investigated. In doing so, we aim to catalyze the transition to a more sustainable future by enabling the use of the existing gas infrastructure as a backbone for renewable energy production. Expect to see more details on our findings with P2G systems in subsequent blogs this year!
By: Jörg Gigler, manager, Sustainability & Smart Energy, and interim manager, Gas Markets & Strategy, KEMA