Gas storage vies for central role in EU quest for carbon neutrality

(EurActiv, 20 May 2019) European gas storage sites have much to offer in the energy transition, providing a readily available platform to carry new low-carbon gases like hydrogen. What’s not clear yet is whether those gases can be produced in sufficient quantity to significantly cut carbon emissions.

The gas industry pitches its 1,200 terawatt hours (TWh) of available storage capacity as a potential benefit to Europe’s future low-carbon energy system.

“The question, of course, is what we’re going to put in that infrastructure over time,” said James Watson from Eurogas, an industry association. “And this is one of the questions we will need to get our heads around and really work hard to achieve,” he told participants at a recent EURACTIV event.

In the short term, gas storage sites can help decarbonise the power sector by providing seasonal storage during winter. They also provide an essential back-up for variable renewable electricity throughout the year. In the long-run, they could provide a platform to store low-carbon gases like green hydrogen generated from wind and solar power as well as biomethane produced locally from agricultural waste.

The problem is, estimates vary widely as to the sector’s ability to deliver those clean gases in the quantities needed to support Europe’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

A recent industry-funded study has put the potential production of renewable gases at 270 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year by 2050, up from 122bcm on projections published the year before. The German industry association BDI even sees potential to import massive amounts of green hydrogen from sunny places like Australia, to the tune of 340TWh per year by 2050.

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EurActiv, 20 May 2019: Gas storage vies for central role in EU quest for carbon neutrality