An island in gas composition


The Netherlands has specificity when it comes to gas quality

The Netherlands is located at one crossroad of the European gas transport network The Netherlands is located at one crossroad of the European gas transport network

When looking at Europe, the Netherlands appears to be “an island in terms of gas composition,” said Rodrigo Pinto Scholtbach, the head of the unit gas market and gas hub at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in his presentation at the conference Back to the Future of Gas, in Groningen on 20 November 2012. Europe consumes high-calorific gas, while the Netherlands consume primarily low-calorific gas. For the Netherlands, it means “fifty years with the same gas composition.”  

To put it simple, the difference between low and high caloric gas is principally the concentration of methane. The Dutch domestic gas grid has a network, which transports low-calorific gas extracted from the Groningen field, and which supply households and agricultural facilities. The second network, which transports high-caloric gas from abroad, deserves the specific needs of the utilities and the chemical industry.

Phasing out, phasing in

In the future, the Netherlands could not count on the depleting natural gas fields of Groningen and other smaller ones. That is, reserves of low-caloric gas will decrease with time.  Meanwhile, the country will see an increasing use of biogas, synthesis gas, unconventional gas and gas imported from abroad through pipelines and light natural gas terminals. The Netherlands can become, from its favorable geographic position, a gas-hub for North-West Europe.

In the recent years, the Dutch government listened to “expressions of concerns among consumers about the changes in the composition of gas,” Mr Scholtbach said. People were concerned about potential damages of burning the new gas with the current household appliances and industrial installations. The government consulted representatives of the society and the industry, Dutch policymaking being based of what is known as the “polder model.”

The Dutch government elaborated a policy. Up until 2030, it will coordinate “the phasing out of existing installations and appliances” and “the phasing in of new installations and appliances,” Mr Scholtbach said. The Dutch government wants to introduce high-caloric gas on the market over twenty years by making “a well-coordinated transition.”

By Jean-François Auger