“How can gas contribute to the success of the energy transition? We are working on making gas more environmentally friendly and transforming our gas infrastructure into a large-scale green-electricity storage system.”
Dr Lioudmila Simon works on the future of the gas infrastructure
Our gas grids ensure energy security by supplying natural gas, but they also have the potential to store green electricity for long periods of time to facilitate the energy transition.
Our natural gas comes from the steppes of Russia, the expanses of the Norwegian part of the North Sea or from the Netherlands. Hidden pipelines run underground, transporting the natural gas from the deposits to consumers. Our gas infrastructure includes highly modern distribution grids consisting of around 100,000 kilometres of pipelines, measuring and control stations as well as underground natural-gas storage facilities.
These grids are becoming increasingly important as the energy transition takes its course. Biogas that has been processed to natural gas quality can be fed into the grids, which then deliver this ‘green’ gas to end customers. Gas grids will be connected even more closely with power grids in the future. For example, surplus power generated using renewable energy sources can be converted into gas, which is then fed into the natural-gas grid. This process is referred to as ‘power to gas’. The power-to-gas process makes it possible to store green electricity in the existing gas infrastructure either seasonally or over the long term, as needed. Alternatively, the green electricity can be used flexibly in other areas, for example, to fuel cars or to supply heat. This makes it possible to use green electricity for other fields of application. This form of connection is also referred to as ‘sector coupling’.
Our aim is to find a way to transport gas reliably and efficiently over the long term; but we also want to ensure that gas contributes to the success of the energy transition.
“Not all natural gases are the same. All gases have something like their own DNA, which is determined by their place of origin. Our goal is to decode this ‘DNA’ more quickly and precisely than ever before in order to ensure that we can operate our infrastructure reliably and efficiently. ”
Dr Vladimir Onderka works for us in Czechia, researching analysis methods for natural gas
Smart markers. Underground pipelines should be hidden from sight, but they should still be easy to locate. Signs are already in place today, clearly marking where pipes are laid underground. However, construction equipment often damage gas pipes. In order to minimise such risks, GasNet, an innogy subsidiary in Brno, Czechia, has launched a pilot project to develop a better warning system. This project entails 300 smart markers that are attached to gas pipes that are laid up to 2.50 metres underground. This technology was developed in France where innogy cooperates with CRIGEN, a research centre dedicated to gas that is run by energy supplier ENGIE.
Each of the orange boxes contains an RFID tag, which stores the exact location and other important information about the box. A special device – a position sensor – makes it possible to locate and read out information from the underground markers via radio signal. The device also makes it possible to store new information in the tags without digging them out of the ground. The tags and position sensors communicate with each other through the ground. The position sensors are connected to a cloud server that collects all of the data. This is a promising solution for capturing data in real time and digitalising gas grids.
Trackable gas pipelines.
The orange boxes (right) are mounted on the pipeline at regular intervals. They contain RFID tags that transmit information. The position sensor (above) can read out this information, even through the ground.
Gas analysis. Not all natural gases are the same. We store gases from many parts of the world in our underground storage facilities in Germany and Czechia. We have been storing a particularly wide range of natural gases ever since we started to transport natural gas not only via pipelines but also in liquefied form, sometimes using tankers to deliver them to ports across the world.
EU regulations stipulate that gas storage facility operators be able to account for where the stored natural-gas mixes come from at all times. This transparency is beneficial for the operators, since it helps them detect possible leaks, for example.
It is necessary to know the precise composition of each gas in order to clearly identify its origin. To this end, innogy Gas Storage uses an innovative gas analysis technology. The innogy subsidiary implements a laser technology to determine the distinctive ‘finger print’ of the respective gas more quickly and precisely than ever before. We are currently testing the new process in practice in Czechia.