Gas network operators as system integrators
Our national and cross-border gas network has been supplying Austria with energy affordably and reliably for decades – even when seasonal fluctuations mean that less energy is available from renewable sources such as wind, sun and water. In addition to hydrogen and biogas, there will continue to be a demand for natural gas until 2050, because the electricity grid must be kept stable in the face of increasing interruptible and decentralised renewable energy production.
From the current standpoint, green gases are still far from being able to completely replace natural gas, as production capacity is not sufficient for this. There will be different gases (methane, hydrogen) alongside each other. In order to ensure intergovernmental trade, liquidity and price convergence, despite this diversification – keyword different types of gas quality – the role of gas transmission system operators as ‘system integrators’ is needed.
Wanted: Licence to research
The gas network and flexible gas storage systems are the indispensable backbone of a climate-neutral energy system. However, in order to implement the energy transition quickly, gas grid operators need discrimination-free options for research and development – feasibility studies as well as ‘sandbox projects’ as real laboratories for implementation. Topics such as the feed-in of low-carbon, biogenic or synthetic gases, sector coupling, etc. must be allowed. For example, network operators should be allowed to operate grid-based Power to Gas (P2G) plants as well as hydrogen grids. The costs of retrofitting the existing networks should be recognised by collective agreement and the construction of new facilities should be supported accordingly.
Hydrogen in the grid
We know that the feed-in of biogas and the blending of hydrogen in the existing gas grid is technically feasible. Today already, about 6 TWh of hydrogen, which corresponds to the output of six new Danube power plants, can be transported in the Gas Connect Austria network. Our existing gas infrastructure, which has been built up over many decades, can thus be used efficiently to transport hydrogen. However, more possibilities are needed to analyse how much potential can really be gained through blending for the energy transition.
Coupling of energies: P2G
At the same time, Austrian infrastructure managers in a consortium are also researching decentralised hydrogen production from wind energy. The power-to-gas development aims to bring together the energy networks of electricity and gas. The energy transport by gas pipelines relieves and thus complements the power grid. These coordinated projects have formed the basis for the political goal of making Austria the ‘No. 1 Hydrogen Nation’. Gas Connect Austria has decades of expertise when it comes to the operation of pipelines and is ready and willing to contribute know-how in the sense of ‘developing new ideas and adapting existing ones’ to help towards the construction of a hydrogen network.