The current situation
Currently, gaseous fuels used in
the European Union are dominated by natural gas, a fuel of fossil origin.
Natural gas is composed mostly of methane and is consequently associated with
greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide when the natural gas is used as fuel
or as methane when the natural gas is produced, processed, transported and
Decarbonisation of gas can be achieved by different
ways and means. In other words, decarbonisation entails different ways by which
the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the life cycle of natural gas from
its source to the end user can be avoided, eradicated, or mitigated.
How to decarbonise?
One way to decarbonise natural
gas is to find ways to produce methane from renewable resources, such as
biomass or natural waste. The resulting fuel is typically biogas (a mixture of
methane and other gases) or biomethane (resulting from the separation of
methane from the other biogas components).
Another way to decarbonise is to
replace the natural gas with a sustainably produced non-methane one. Hydrogen
produced via water electrolysis with the help of electricity from renewable
resources is an example.
A third way is capturing the
carbon contained in the natural gas, either before its use (pre-combustion, for
example by converting it in a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide destined
for storage) or post-combustion, for instance by capturing the carbon dioxide
and placing it in long-term geological storage.
There are other possible ways and
means to decarbonise gas apart from the examples above. Methane emissions can
be eradicated or minimised by applying a host of common sense practices, such
as preventing venting during the exploration and production of natural gas,
prohibiting flaring (especially when natural gas is produced as “associated
gas” along with liquid hydrocarbons), avoiding fugitive emissions from valves
and compressor stations, and making sure that burning is not incomplete.
of these “common sense” approaches apply not only to natural gas, but also to
methane-containing decarbonised gases.
It is therefore important to develop and deploy the relevant regulatory
tools and methods for all methane-containing gases, decarbonised or not.
The decarbonisation journey
Decarbonised gases are only
produced and used in the European Union on a minor scale, with the bulk being
biogas and biomethane. Besides, most of the natural gas is imported (ca. 80%).
The ramping up of gas decarbonisation
poses thus numerous challenges, ranging from assuring that the field is level
for all available technology options and pathways, to supporting innovation by
the right regulation, to monitoring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas
emissions across the entire international gas supply chain, to properly
defining “green gases”, to making sure that competition is fair and market
Across this broad range of
issues, ACER is committed to fostering the decarbonisation of the gas sector,
by tackling different aspects in its regulatory tasks.