The transformation of gas

Leonardo D’Acquisto of Italgas spotlights the next evolution of gas grids.

Natural gas will continue to play an important role in the ongoing energy transition process, even in 2050 – the deadline set by the Green Deal for the achievement of environmental objectives.

This is thanks to its many special features, from cost-effectiveness to ease of transport and storage, and flexibility of use.

In this sense, the European Commission identifies gas distribution operators as an essential player in promoting the process of decarbonising economies.

In particular, the Commission assigns three main objectives to the gas sector for the coming decades: the availability of new essential and strategic infrastructures for the injection of renewable gases into the network, such as biomethane, hydrogen and synthetic methane; the development of smart networks and technologies enabling greater efficiency in consumption; and the mitigation of fugitive methane emissions.

This article was originally published in The Guide

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The strategic driver of this process is digital transformation as it prepares the networks for the distribution of gases other than methane, allows efficiency and service quality to be increased and guarantees more accurate detection of fugitive emissions through increasingly advanced gas leakage detection technologies.

In this scenario, Italgas has been implementing an important plan to digitalise its assets and processes, as well as reskilling its people, which by 2022 will make it the first utility in the world with a fully digitalized network.

It will be a new generation of remotely controllable, constantly monitored infrastructure that will enable a shift from traditional routine/ extraordinary maintenance to modern predictive maintenance based on big data collection and advanced analytics.

This new generation of infrastructures is perfectly represented in the methanisation plan Italgas is carrying out in Sardinia, a region that will soon close its energy gap thanks to the most modern network in the country.

These ‘native digital’ grids are the key asset for the launch of a pilot project based on power-to-gas technology. This technology allows excess electricity produced from renewable sources to be stored and transported as green hydrogen or synthetic methane, exploiting the capillarity and flexibility of the new digital network.

The P2G project, planned for 2022, aims at the construction of a renewable gas production plant connected to the new digital grids. It will consist of a 2000-kW self-production plant for electricity from renewable sources, a 500-kW electrolyser capable of producing oxygen and hydrogen from water, and a methanation section that will transform the hydrogen into synthetic natural gas.

The expected quantity of hydrogen is 20 tonnes a year from 2022, rising to 34 tonnes a year from 2028. The gas produced, in the form of green hydrogen and/or synthetic methane, will be supplied to Sardinian domestic and industrial users.

The plant will also be equipped with a buffer storage to stock the gas produced, which could be used to generate electricity again, or to be mixed with natural gas in the networks. Other functions still being studied include the supply of hydrogen for mobility.

This article was originally published in The Guide

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