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International dimensions

The Netherlands remains one of Europe’s largest producer and exporters of gas. Its geographic location places it as the most likely gas-hub for Northwestern Europe. It exports gas in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Yet the Netherlands is challenged of keeping its international position and to assume the leader’s role, while European countries undertake a transition towards the use of sustainable energy.

In this context, the Energy Delta Gas Research (EDGaR) has developed a research program in pace with current developments. It contributes to maintain the Netherlands at the cutting-edge with the most fundamental and long-term issues of the gas industry. Hence it finances researches on gas quality, on gas an enabler of renewable energies and on gas markets—all these themes having an international dimension.

Changing gas qualities

The quality of the gas will diversify. This results from increasing long-distance transport and the internationalization of gas trade. Western Europe sees a flow of tankers delivering light natural gas from abroad. Pipelines transport gas from Norway and Russia. These gases vary in quality. That is, they have various chemical composition and caloric values.

Researchers across Europe determine the gas quality specifications and they test their impact all over the gas supply chain. The results of these researches help national, European and international bodies deciding new industrial standards. Which gas can be technically fed into a given gas grid? And, by the same token, which gas can be traded on the national and international markets? EDGaR’s research projects address these questions.

Consumers in the European Union use high-caloric gas. Yet, in the Netherlands, households and part of the commercial and industrial consumers uses low-caloric gas. The problem will arise when Groningen gas field will deplete. All the equipment for the transport, distribution and consumption has been set to work with a narrow range of gas composition. Research projects carried by EDGaR analyses how the Netherlands can broaden the gas band to accommodate gas imported from abroad.

Moreover, these researches are connected to renewable gases. Some chemical components in biogas and hydrogen pose a risk to the integrity and reliability of the infrastructure. EDGaR finances researches on the adjustments in the composition of the gases so that they can be carried in the current grid. Moreover, it finances researches on how operators and end-users will have to modify their equipment to transport, distribute and use these new gases.

Research projects develop new methods to determine the requirements in the composition of non-gaseous components in sustainable gases. They investigate the innovative possibility of coming up with renewable gases with a composition so close to the one of natural gas that they could be used in the current grid. The results of these researches have major implications for the conception of energy policies. Several research institutions in Europe work on the determination of acceptable gas compositions that can be used as reference to set standards. EDGaR researches contribute, with scientifically sound evidences, to the international transition from a monogas world to a multigas one.

Gas enabler for energy

Renewable sources, such as wind and solar, fluctuates in their provision of energy. The electricity generated out of them can be stored for further use. Storing electricity is however still not only inefficient and moreover costly. The other alternative consists of balancing the production of electricity with other sources of renewable energy. Gas-fired power plants produce electricity with a fast, efficient and reliable fashion. Moreover, the surplus of electricity can be converted into hydrogen or methane, whose storage technology has better advantages over that of electricity.

Besides, gas can be used for the production of heat in cogeneration units at both centralized and decentralized levels. In the future, electricity, gas and heat networks will be highly interconnected. Hence, EDGaR’s research projects have an integrated approach of these systems. The find the better way to facilitate the deployment of energy systems based on renewable energies.

European gas markets

European market heads towards further globalization of the gas supply chain and a liberalization of gas trade. Globalization increases with the deployment of international pipelines and light natural gas oceanic routes and terminals. Meanwhile, the European Union pushes for further market integration trough the removal or harmonization of national regulations and tariffs to trade. New gas qualities are introduced on the market with their own infrastructure, management and monitoring systems.

EDGaR’s research projects provide a picture of the position of the Netherlands on the European gas market. Some projects analyses the bodies of law and regulations that governs these markets. They determine what changes are desirable or deemed necessary to facilitate the use of new gas quality. Other projects aims at understanding the institutional and organizational arrangements that comes with the deployment of new technical systems that supports the advent of biogas, syngas and hydrogen.

Given the current developments in the industry, it was a sound choice to start up research projects on these themes. EDGaR supports the Dutch gas industry of keeping abreast of the structural changes that comes along with the transition towards the use of renewable energies. Gas remains both less polluting than other fossil fuels and flexible enough to supplement the non-continuous supply of renewable energy.