Pipeline Gas

Pipeline gas can consist of various renewable and non-renewable gases. It is typically a clean-burning and low-carbon fuel. Pipeline gas can be used in numerous applications, including at high efficiency with combined heat and power technology in commerce, industry and district heating and for, for grid balancing with peaking stations.

Main energy carrier Fossil source Carbon neutral Renewable Carbon negative
CH4 Natural gas With carbon capture and conversion (CCC) Biomethane or BioSNG (from plants, waste or agriculture) With CCC
CO Coal, plastics (syngas) With CCC Lignin, cellulose (syngas) With CCC
H2 Blue (steam reformation of natural gas, with potential for carbon capture) With CCC Green (electrolysis of water with surplus renewable electricity or steam reformation of renewable CH4) With CCC

 

Historical context

Historically gas pipelines transported town gas, a form of synthesis gas to industry and households. There was a significant expansion of natural gas usage starting from the 1950s to present day.

With global discoveries of natural gas this formed the bulk of the content of pipeline gas. There are exceptions to this such as South Africa where a parallel synthesis gas, methane rich gas, is also used in the gas pipelines.

Renewable future

Starting in the 2010s the potential of renewable gases to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions has been recognised. Gas is a valuable flexible fuel that can be used to balance electricity demand with supply intermittent sources of wind and solar power. One of the first renewable gases which started to be injected into gas distribution networks was biomethane. Biomethane is a renewable form of methane (CH4) derived from biogas. In turn biogas is typically derived from biodegradable waste streams such as waste.

There are now schemes which inject hydrogen into the natural gas grid. Hydrogen can be derived from surplus renewable electricity such as from wind turbines, or alternatively from natural gas typically via steam reforming. The resultant carbon would be captured and stored or converted into useful products.

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