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REPORTS Energy Grid

Gas grids for a

smart energy system
by Jos Dehaeseleer, Tim Cayford, Benjamin de Ville de Goyet and Ilir Kas

Greenhouse gas emissions, EU energy import dependency, increasing energy demand, affordability and many
other factors cause decision makers to rethink energy use, production, transportation and storage. In order to
achieve the energy efficiency goals, the European Commission supports strongly the development of smart
energy grids. The gas network and gas utilisations will play a major role in achieving the efficiency goals and will
enable cost saving solutions for many problems encountered by the electricity networks in the future. The major
benefits of gas and smart gas grids show its essential role in an overall energy mix program:
■■ lowering greenhouse gas emissions,
■■ increasing the share of renewable energy (biomethane, Syngas, injection of H2,...),
■■ optimising the intermittent production of renewable energy,
■■ contributing to improve the security of supply,
■■ improving energy efficiency by enabling active participation of the end-users,
■■ creating the conditions for efficient use of energy networks, giving consumers the ability to choose the most
economic energy source in real-time, and at the same time save energy,
■■ avoiding costly investments in electricity grids by using existing gas networks and gas appliances,
■■ enabling consumers to become “prosumers” by using gas to lower the ‘peaks’ in the electricity network and
to reduce energy loss in the electricity transmission and distribution networks;
■■ enabling synergies between gas and electricity networks through the encouragement of distributed

Clean and efficient energy emphasizes the need for a modernised, smart and flexible energy infrastructure at all
levels to allow more flexible back-up and balancing power capacity, storage systems, new energy usages such as
CNG an LNG vehicles and demand-response programs. This stresses the need to ensure greater cooperation
between all stakeholders with the end-user as a “central player”.

1. INTRODUCTION Further, uncertainties around the future development

of efficient and large scale electricity storage technolo-
To tackle the energy challenges it is important to develop gies means that gas will increasingly become a key pro-
smart and integrated networks which function as com- vider of both heating and electricity balancing services.
ponents of a holistic energy system, including gas, elec- As pointed out in the EG4 report1 in 2011, smart gas
tricity, heat and information technologies. grids will support the ability of gas to play a major ongoing
This needs active networks with interactive function- role in the energy mix while meeting the carbon targets
alities to integrate multiple energy sources and services, via the enabling of renewable energy and the enabling of
and empower consumers to use and produce energy active participation of the end-users in the energy market.
more efficiently. Such active gas networks, or smart gas The smart gas grid concept is based on maximizing
grids, are beginning to be developed in tandem with the efficiency of overall energy usage and taking full
smart electricity grids to facilitate smart energy utilisation. advantage of the flexibility and all the opportunities that
Whereas electricity networks require real-time gas and the gas grid can offer.
responses to changes in demand, peak load reduction or
load control, gas networks are more flexible since they 1 EU Commission Task Force for Smart Grids - Expert Group 4 - Smart Grid
can store large amounts of energy. aspects related to Gas

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Energy Grid REPORTS

In this paper, we will illustrate the composition of a

smart energy system, and the crucial role that gas and the
gas grids are to play in such a context.



If we focus on the network related energy use, a major

trend can be recognized toward increasing sustainable
resources which would be more decentralized compared
with today. The more frequently discussed options for
decentralized energy production are wind and solar
energy (see Figure 1).
Because these resources can provide electricity one
may tend to assume that an all-electric energy system
would be obvious. However, the transition towards an
energy system entirely based on electricity will likely be
an insurmountable challenge.
The challenge of a transition toward an energy system
entirely based on electricity lies not only in the difference Figure 1: Renewable electricity is critical …but incomplete…
between the peak demands of heat versus electricity.
Besides capacity, the flexibility needed is a serious obsta-
cle to overcome.
Even with demand side response, renewable electric-
ity cannot cover completely the demand since the time
shift between the renewable electricity production
period and the peak consumption period (e. g. higher PV
production mostly in the summer whereas most of the
consumption occurs in the winter and even on daily
bases the renewably electricity production don’t match
the demand). Electricity networks require real-time
responses to changes in demand as electricity cannot
easily be stored. By contrast gas can be readily stored, on
a seasonal basis in depleted gas reservoirs, in salt cavities
and using Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG); also on a diurnal
basis in the grid itself and in low pressure gas holders.
With the exception of the low pressure networks, other
pressure tiers could, offer short term storage capacity
using line pack. The availability of line pack will depend Figure 2: Gas grids allow for more of this renewable energy
on the length and diameter of the pipe and the pressure
range available.

3. GAS AS AN ENABLER OF A 3.1 Towards renewables and energy efficient


With the high degrees of intermittency in renewable Smart gas utilisation such as “dual fuel” appliances (elec-
power supply coupled with the varying demand pat- tricity & gas), fuel cells, an increased use of Natural Gas
terns which do not match up with the supply (as Vehicles (NGV) or Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) for transport,
shown above), the gas grids play a fundamental role. and biomethane injection into the gas grid, together
And yet there is much more to the role that gas grids with extensive use of (micro-) cogeneration (CHP), offer
are to play in a smart energy system that delivers the solutions to manage greenhouse gas emissions, the effi-
sustainable goals that our society has set out to ciency of the networks and to empower the end-users to
achieve (see Figure 2). The following sections will lay optimize their energy use and to allow them to partici-
out these further aspects. pate actively in the energy market.

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Modern gas boilers are very efficient for space heating Micro-CHP appliances produce electricity when there
and hot water production. The efficiency can be further is a heat demand. As such they may play an important
increased by using renewables. At present this is com- role in a future smart energy grid where the electricity
monly done by using condensing gas boilers in combina- demand also may be heat-driven.
tion with solar (thermal) panels, mainly for hot water pro-
duction. The next generation of gas appliances will be 3.3 Gas for mobility
even more efficient by using the energy from air, ground
or water in gas heat pumps. This technology is available Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) can replace gasoline in
but not yet common in Europe. vehicle engines after minor modifications to fuel and
A hybrid heating system combines a heat pump (typi- control systems. As the CO2 emissions from natural gas
cally air-to-water) with a condensing gas boiler and thus it are much lower than the emissions from oil, the use of
is a “dual-fuel” appliance. The heat pump will supply CNG results in emission reductions up to 25 %. The tech-
energy to the house at moderate temperatures (depend- nologies for gas-driven cars are far more advanced than
ing on the heating system and the costs of electricity vs. for electric cars and emission reductions therefore come
gas) and the condensing gas boiler supplies energy at at a much lower cost.
lower outside temperature. When properly integrated in The CO2 emissions from Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs)
a smart energy system the operator can choose the opti- can be further reduced by using biomethane as a fuel.
mum fuel to balance the energy system and the cus- Biomethane has a significant market share in Finland,
tomer can choose the energy form of his choice depend- Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden5.
ing on price and/or sustainability gradient. More than 3000 NGV filling stations are in operation
Hybrid heat pumps and add-on heat pumps for exist- within EU, which, together with home compressors,
ing installation are available today from boiler manufactur- supply fuel to 1.1 million NGVs. Some of these stations
ers and also from other suppliers. Hybrid heat pumps have supply CNG or Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to heavy duty
lower running costs and lower CO2 emissions than con- vehicles or boats. The LNG Blue Corridors project aims
densing boilers, but the installation and equipment costs to improve knowledge and awareness of LNG as an
are still higher. Manufacturers have reduced the equip- alternative fuel for medium and long distance road
ment costs by optimizing the size of the heat pump. It is transport by the roll out and demonstration of four LNG
therefore expected that the market share of hybrid heat corridors across Europe.
pumps will significantly increase over the next years, mak- There is also the possibility to use compressed e-gas
ing it an important part of smart energy grids. based on H2 and recycled CO26.

3.2 Gas for local electricity production 3.4 Towards increasing integration of green gas
in the natural gas networks
The IPPC’s Fifth Assessment Report2 concludes that near‐
term greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply can be Now produced from waste and, in the longer term pro-
reduced by replacing coal‐fired power plants with highly duced from wood, straw or microalgae, biomethane is a
efficient Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) power plants green, 100% renewable gas, injected into the natural
or CHP plants. Many CHP units exist already across Europe gas network. The multiplication of injection points
and there is a substantial potential for further development. involving various gas qualities becomes a reality requir-
In 2009, 11.4 % of the electricity in the EU was produced by ing improved performance indicators of the distribution
CHP; of which 39.4 % based on natural gas3. network: In the past, the gas came from centralized
Micro- or mini-CHP units provide energy to commercial geological sources; in the future the gas system will pro-
and residential buildings. Appliances based on Stirling vide increasing network access to many local producers
engine or internal combustion engine with an output of 1 of biomethane.
kWe, for use in single family houses, are being commercial- On top of the potential of anaerobic digestion of
ized. Up to 1000 residential fuel cell micro-CHP appliances waste, technical and economic study of gasification of
from nine European manufacturers are demonstrated in solid biomass and biogas from microalgae is on-going.
the “ene.field” project4 across twelve key Member States. As all these additional potentials are complementary, a
large share of the gas could be supplied from renewable
sources in the future.
2 http://report.mitigation2014.org/drafts/final-draft-postplenary/ipcc_wg3_
3 http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/combined-heat- 5 http://www.ngvaeurope.eu/european-ngv-statistics (status September 2013)
6 http://www.audi.com/com/brand/en/vorsprung_durch_technik/
4 http://enefield.eu content/2013/10/energy-turnaround-in-the-tank.html

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Energy Grid REPORTS


COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY Figure 3: Information & Com-
NETWORKS munications Technology enables
interaction & integration
The development of electric intermittent renewable
sources such as wind and photovoltaic raises questions
about their integration into networks. A low level of pro-
duction requires having flexible production capacity for
back-up support. Moreover, large production requires
developing storage capacity or conversion of surplus elec-
tricity to other energy carriers such as hydrogen or meth-
In response to these issues, technologies enabling
electricity conversion towards –(power-to-gas) are some-
times called upon. Based on the large storage capacity of
gas infrastructure (line pack and underground storage),
they aim to convert renewable electricity into hydrogen
by electrolysis of water. This hydrogen can be injected
into the network of natural gas in the natural state, or
after a step of methanation, which comprises the associ-
ate H2 with CO2 to convert it to methane. As hydrogen
cannot easily be stored in underground storage for tech-
nical reasons, power-to-methane enables access to the
full scope of gas infrastructures.
The injection of non-conventional gases, like biome-
thane or hydrogen, insofar as it is produced from a car-
bon free source, reduces the carbon intensity of the gas
grid. Manufacturing biomethane by upgrading biogas
produced by methanation is available and already
injected in the gas network in more than 200 places in
Europe, mainly in Germany.
Other gases could be injected directly, or by using a
blending facility in the gas networks. Since there are only
a small number of pilots going on for the moment, there
is less experience available.
These new sources have different characteristics
which require smart functionalities:
■■ Decentralized and numerous, in the long term
■■ Predictable and stable for biogas production but
intermittent for renewable electricity (electricity at
low cost, maintenance, grid capacity, quality)
■■ Sources of gases of different qualities Figure 4: The smart energy grid

In order to monitor and manage the different gas quali-

ties and flows, a growing number of communicating
devices at crucial points of the network will have to be 5. THE POWER OF INTEGRATION
deployed and monitored for a faster and a more accurate
fault diagnoses. Remote control of key infrastructure Taken together (see Figure 4), we can see that the elec-
components could allow implementation of innovative tricity, gas, and ICT grids are components of an overall
strategies such as dynamic pressure adjustment to maxi- system. Without any of these networks, the system fails.
mize green gas integration. For these reasons, and to Further, synergy is realized through not just competi-
enable the end-users, the information and communica- tion between energy sources, although this can be very
tion technology (ICT) networks become a crucial compo- important, but coordination, and even integration to
nent of the energy system (see Figure 3). realize complementarity in terms of storage, and sys-

Issue 3/2015 gas for energy   25

REPORTS Energy Grid

tem balancing. The end-user is also enabled to choose gas grid as part of a smart energy system. This report is
in an intelligent and informed way between these available on www.marcogaz.org and is augmented by a
energy carriers. video available in several languages also on www.euro-
The importance of gas and gas smart grids in the future Jos Dehaeseleer
energy use, production and transportation in Europe MARCOGAZ
should not be underestimated. Gas grids play a central Brussels | Belgium
role in the overall energy usage, production and trans- Phone: +32 2 237 11 35
port thanks to its flexibility and compatibility with E-mail: jos.dehaeseleer@marcogaz.org
renewables. Storage abilities of gas and energy convert-
ibility to gas will solve many of problems already identi- Tim Cayford
fied in order to attain to future energy efficiency in a EUROGAS
sustainable way. Brussels | Belgium
Although gas and gas smart grids are actually not the Phone: +32 2 894 48 48
first priority in many European debates concerning E-mail: TCAY@eurogas.org
energy efficiency and smart grids, the natural gas indus-  
try has been an increasingly active contributor toward a Benjamin de Ville de Goyet
smarter energy system. MARCOGAZ
The European gas networks are active and crucial Brussels | Belgium
components toward realizing smarter future energy sys- Phone: +32 2 237 11 36
tem that the coming generations need. To fully achieve E-mail: benjamin.devilledegoyet@marcogaz.org
such an integrated, balanced, and sustainable system is
challenging and will only be realized with the continued Ilir Kas
engagement of all stakeholders. SYNERGRID
The MARCOGAZ - EUROGAS - GERG status report and Brussels | Belgium
project list which was compiled last year, and on which Phone: +32 2 383 02 40
this article is based gives a regularly updated detailed E-mail : ilir.kas@synergrid.be
overview of some European projects towards a smarter

MEDIA Book review

Power-to-Gas: Technology and Business Models

Increased production of energy from renewable sources ence of the scale and the type of the integration of the
leads to a need for both new and enhanced capacities technology into the existing energy network is high-
for energy  transmission and  intermediate storage. The lighted with an emphasis on economic consequences.
book first compares different available storage options Finally, legal aspects of the operation and integration of
and then introduces the power-to-gas concept in a the power-to-gas system are discussed.
comprehensive overview of the technology. The state of
the art, advancements, and future requirements for Edited by Lehner, M., Tichler,
both water electrolysis and methanation are described. R., Steinmüller, H., Koppe, M.
The integration of renewable hydrogen and methane Published by Springer Inter-
into the gas grid is discussed in terms of the necessary national Publishing, 2014, 93 p.,
technological measures to be taken. Because the power- eBook
to-gas system is very flexible, providing numerous spe- ISBN 978-3-319-03995-4,
cific applications for different targets within the energy price 41,94 €
sector, possible business models are presented on the Softcover
basis of various process chains taking into account dif- ISBN 978-3-319-03994-7,
ferent plant scales and operating scenarios. The influ- price 53,49 €

26    gas for energy Issue 3/2015