Gas infrastructure scale up needed for affordable decarbonised and renewables-based energy system

A study published this week by Navigant for the Gas for Climate consortium points at combining hydrogen, biomethane and electricity to better decarbonise the energy system.

Just last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond delivered the Spring Statement, in which Hammond spoke of the need for the pace of decarbonisation to be accelerated. As response to that statement was provided by Richard Walsh, head of public affairs from Cadent, and can be read in full here. Walsh and his team are looking “to introduce hydrogen at scale from 2024” into the UK gas grid.

The Navigant study states that using the natural gas equivalent of around 2900 TWh, or approximately 270 billion cubic metres, of green hydrogen and renewable methane through existing gas infrastructure across the EU would save €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.

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 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.”

Achieving 100% greenhouse gas reduction requires large quantities of renewable electricity, and the report presents that the most economic route to large-scale decarbonisation is to combine electricity with renewable gases such as hydrogen and biomethane. Renewable gas is also thought to add value in the heating of buildings, for high temperature industrial heat, providing flexibility in electricity production alongside wind and solar and in heavy transport.

The Navigant analysts foresee blue hydrogen being initially important, this is carbon-neutral hydrogen produced from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, to grow developing hydrogen markets. The study says that toward 2050, with increased levels of renewable electricity and falling costs, renewable green hydrogen will gradually replace blue hydrogen, ultimately achieving a fully renewable energy system.

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