Carbon neutrality: Connecting energies for tomorrow

Christophe Poillion's picture
Christophe Poillion, Secretary of the Board of Directors, GRTgaz
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The French government has set an ambitious goal with the energy transition, aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. GRTgaz is actively supporting this goal and is developing new projects and new products in order to efficiently reduce carbon emissions.

It is usually recognised that gas is a strong back-up to renewable sources in electricity, with the French gas system particularly well-suited to adapt to the intermittency of both power customers and renewables. In winter, the power system can rely on cogeneration and on the 14 gas-fired combined cycle power plants, which can reach 9 GW of electricity production in less than 1 hour. Electricity can be difficult to store, however with a better interconnection between the power and the gas system, the power market has access to gas storage with a capacity of about 130 TW. This is 300 times higher than what is available on the electricity network alone; while the domestic gas and electricity consumptions are quite close (circa 450 TWh).

For sure, gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, and substituting coal and oil for gas is an easy way to significantly reduce CO2 emissions. This is true for power production, but also for heating or transportation (cars, trucks, buses, boats). Numerous private or public initiatives are currently emerging to support the development of the NGV/bio NGV sector in France. Together with some municipalities, GRTgaz is one of the shareholder of “SIGEIF Mobilité”, a joint-venture in charge of building NGV filling stations in neighbourhood of Paris.

As well as this GRTgaz is also strongly promoting the development of renewable gas, with initiatives currently blossoming. 24 renewable gas sites in the form of biomethane are already connected to the grid, contributing to the development circular economy in territories. By 2030-2040, 40-50 TWh of first-generation biomethane are foreseen with the potential for biomethane of second or third generation by pyro gasification, pyrolysis or microalgae to reach 200 TWh when injected in the grid.

Another key project is “Jupiter 1000”, an experimental power-to-gas project that will be in operation by the end of 2018, in Fos-sur-Mer. Eight companies have joined forces to explore the future of “synthetic methane”, resulting in the combination of CO2, which is captured in the neighbouring industry, and hydrogen produced with surpluses of renewable electricity. This is a promising way of storing electricity at a large scale and for a long period of time.

A successful energy transition requires intelligence to exploit similarities between electricity and gas systems to build a genuine “hybrid energy system”. The gas and electricity transmission grid operators, GRTgaz and RTE are already cooperating to identify and exploit the possibilities of jointly optimising gas and electricity systems. The next step is to involve consumers using hybrid systems at a local level, such as micro-cogeneration, electric heat pumps & gas boilers. These smart systems will minimize carbon emissions and will allow energy markets to manage consumption peaks at an affordable cost.

In order to be acceptable from an economical point of view, the energy transition has to involve gas and existing gas infrastructures, which can transport and store huge quantities of energy. GRTgaz is taking up this fascinating challenge every day, as stated in its vision and mission, they are “Connecting energies for tomorrow”.

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