A competitive European industry: the contribution of gas technologies

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

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The EU industry is the foundation of the European economy, providing 80% of the block’s exports and 35 million of its jobs. It is now called on by the European Commission to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change. The secret weapon? Industrial innovation.

The European Commission’s vision of Europe being the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 can be achieved only through a mix of cutting-edge technologies from all sectors, leading the way towards a decarbonised economy.

The complexity and the far-reaching implications of this transition require a comprehensive approach and the contribution of different solutions.  GasNaturally believes that the gas industry has a key role to play in this context.

Industrial advantage through gas decarbonisation technologies

Europe is home to the pioneers in gas decarbonisation technologies, such as electrolysers, anaerobic digestors, Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage. This industrial advantage should be not be squandered, but rather maintained and supported.

Further decarbonisation can be achieved with a swift coal-to-gas switch, and an increased use of gas-based CHP (Combined Heat and Power) systems, which can provide substantial emissions reductions and increase energy efficiency for heavy industries such as cement and steel.

At the same time, a progressive deployment of biomethane, synthetic gas and hydrogen blending in the energy grid can be part of the pathways towards climate neutrality.

In addition to the environmental benefits, developing these technologies create local, high-skilled, non-seasonal jobs, which are crucial to boost the EU’s competitiveness.

New technologies to facilitate environmental benefits

The gas industry will keep on contributing to the development of technologies. To give an example, the world’s largest bioLNG facility in the world, based in Asker, Norway, converts the biogas from fishery waste and residual paper mill slurry into bio LNG for public transport vehicles.

In the Netherlands, Shell and Gasunie are working to develop one of the largest green hydrogen plants in the world. As for Carbon Capture and Storage, there are over 20 projects in operation or planned in Europe alone.

The gas sector at the forefront for Europe’s industry

The gas industry is also a strategic partner to decarbonising the European energy intensive industries: about one-third of their energy consumption relies on gas due to its efficiency and affordability.

As acknowledged by a 2019 study of ‘Agora Energiewende’ on the existing alternatives to decarbonise Germany’s industrial production, natural gas-based hydrogen is one of the solutions (from 2025) to decarbonise steel making.

In this vein, International Energy Agency (IEA) emphasizes that governments need to provide funding for research and development of low carbon steel production through technologies like electrolytic hydrogen or Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS).

The IEA gives the same advice for the chemical industry, a sector which in Europe relies on gas for 36% of its total energy consumption.

Sector integration is another option to decarbonise industries. One example is the application of power-to-gas for the production of green hydrogen used to decarbonize energy intensive industries. This is pursued by the ‘Hybrit project’ in Sweden which aims at using green hydrogen from renewable sources to enable zero-carbon steel making process.

European alliances to tackle technical and market barriers for environmentally friendly technologies

GasNaturally welcomes the upcoming alliances on clean hydrogen technologies and low-carbon industries. Another important development worth supporting is the IPCEI process for hydrogen which will enable disruptive and ambitious research and innovation, moving the sector beyond the state of the art and launching the first industrial deployment.

Together, these broad alliances will encompass all decarbonisation technologies facilitating synergies between sectors and create a momentum for innovation in Europe. Green hydrogen, for instance, is key to support the roll-out of renewables.

Clean gas frontrunners should cooperate along with the Commission and member states to identify the main technical and market barriers to the deployment of technologies like steam methane reforming (SMR), electrolysis, biomethane, or LNG for carbon-intensive transports.

Gas is the key partner to preserve present and future competitiveness of energy-intensive industries

These past few years, gas has been instrumental in driving down EU energy-related emissions, alongside renewables and energy efficiency gains. The solutions supplied by our industry today already deliver clear, measurable results and help put Europe on track to reach its long-term climate objectives.

Let’s work together to develop tomorrow’s solutions and make Europe a global climate leader that leaves no one behind on the journey.

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