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Results for gas distribution companies

2012-02-09

A thematic research day showcases promising results for gas distribution companies, with respect to the future of the gas network and gas quality

Mannes Wolters, a technology manager from KIWA, addressed the audience in Apeldoorn on 9 February 2012 (Photo: H. Ophoff) Mannes Wolters, a technology manager from KIWA, addressed the audience in Apeldoorn on 9 February 2012 (Photo: H. Ophoff)

Gas enables the production of half of the electricity consumption in the Netherlands, recalled Mannes Wolters, a technology manager at Kiwa, in an introductory speech of a conference held at Kiwa in Apeldoorn on 9 February. Besides, gas represents an significant combustible to heat households and industrial buildings.

The energy industry heads towards the supply of renewable energy. It seeks ways of producing biogas and synthetic natural gas, two renewable sources of energy. In addition, it uses the natural gas reserves to balance the fluctuations in the energy demand. Wind and solar energy cannot match the energy demand in real time.

Looking ahead

Will gas still be a relevant source of energy in the future? Several new sources of energy add up to the traditional ones. The chances are reasonable that gas will keep its share on the market. Anton Janssen, an asset manager at Liander, thinks that researches carried by the Energy Delta Gas Research provide relevant information, from a multidisciplinary perspective, to portray a vision of the long-term changes. They depict the current image of gas. They describe the role of gas in the energy transition. In fine, they help to understand the position of the Netherlands in the European market.

What are the possible scenarios for the future of the gas industry? Scenarios to predict the evolution of the Dutch gas distribution infrastructure by 2050 had been developed by a research team — Errit Bekkering, a doctoral student at Delft University of Technology, Rosemarie van Eekelen, a consultant at Kiwa, and Taede Weidenaar, a doctoral student at the University of Twente.

They offer four unique scenarios, which combines technical and institutional analysis. Gas distribution companies can refer to these scenarios while planning the long-term investments. Moreover, they enable the derivation of the evolution of the critical technical functions such as interconnection in the gas grid.

One can also analyze the future of the gas distribution companies in relation with the multiplication of renewables energies. Kees Pulles, a consultant at Kiwa, asked if the gas distribution network will still play an significant role in providing energy in the coming decades. Mr Pulles’ answer, positive, assumes that the situation will most likely change. There will be a diversification in the quality of gas being distributed.

In turn, this will require new standards in the materials used to store, pump, transport and burn gas. There will be new users of gas. Mr Pulles pleaded for the management of the assets so that the gas network remains flexible to these changes and keep its capacity of being integrated or coupled with other sources of energy supply.

Gas quality

One of the most relevant issues for the future of the gas industry pertains, most certainly, to gas quality. Erik Polman, a senior consultant at Kiwa, has investigated the case of the Netherlands. The high caloric gas quality will most likely undergo changes, while the low caloric gas is expected to remain the same up until 2020.

The broadening of the gas band quality comes, from the supply of green gas, which contains chemical compounds that fluctuates. Mr Polman expects fast variation in the caloric value of the gase and, as a consequence, the development of new measurement techniques and new types of sensor to monitor gas quality.

Besides gas sensors, the new gas quality will affect as well the material infrastructure of the gas network. Ernst van der Stok, a consultant at Kiwa, researches the effect of chemical compounds present in gas on the transport and joints materials. Laboratory measurements were made to tests the effect of a range of chemical compounds found in gas (such as carbon dioxide, water and siloxane) on the materials used in the gas infrastructure (such as polymer, steel and copper).

The results will be used to determine which gas quality can be transported in the current network or which adaptations are needed, given that the chemical compounds have an effect on the life span and maintenance of the materials.

At the end of the gas supply chain lays the end-user. Hans de Laat, a product manager at Kiwa, researches the effects of new gas quality on diverse household appliances. In this respect, he carried out tests with a V8 motor that generate measurement data on the combustion process and to draw a model out of it.

Later on, Mr de Laat will test household’s appliances, such as central warming systems and cooking stoves. Gas distribution companies can use the results of these testing to evaluate how far the new gas quality can be delivered without problems to end-users.

At the junction of technology and institutions

Rolf Künneke, an associate professor at Delft University of Technology, discussed the social implications for an optimal gas distribution system. What are the sound strategic choices for the distribution system operators?

Mr Künneke thinks that the challenge lies in the proper alignment between technology and institutions of the gas industry. That raises a range of questions pertaining to the optimization, the regulation, the conditions and the role of the gas distribution network.

By Jean-François Auger