Creating the low-carbon energy world of the future needs new ideas – including in the gas (both natural and renewable) sector, which has an innovation potential like no other fuel. Cutting-edge gas technologies, such as power-to-gas and fuel cells, provide solutions for the low-carbon energy systems of the future.
These technologies provide an alternative to electrification which, due to cost and seasonal storage needed, is not a silver bullet.
Power-to-gas (P2G) is an innovative process that converts surplus electricity generated by renewable sources into renewable gas, which can then be stored until needed in the existing gas infrastructure.
The process uses electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen; typically, the hydrogen is then used as an admixture in natural gas, as a fuel for vehicles or as a chemical feedstock.
With the right policy framework, P2G technology could advance from lab innovation to industrial application rather quickly; as with the development of wind and solar energy over the last decade, this would allow for economies of scale and bring down the costs.
CCS (carbon capture and storage) is a technology that captures CO2 emissions from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, thereby preventing their release into the atmosphere. Captured CO2 is transported to a storage site — normally in an underground geological formation, such as a depleted gas field —where it is deposited in such a way that it will not re-enter the atmosphere.
CCS, which has proven to be effective in various projects around the world, will remain an important option to reduce GHG emissions at large scale, particularly in the medium and long term.
Micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP) is a technology that generates heat and electricity simultaneously from the same energy source. This technology, which is increasingly used in individual homes or buildings, has advantages for entities (e.g., hotels, hospitals) with constant demand for both low temperature heat and electricity.
Eventually, households could even use gas to produce their own electricity through micro-generation, with heat being a by-product of the process. If the home generates more electricity than its occupants need, the excess can be supplied to the grid. Solar power could also be used in combination with gas.
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that, through a chemical reaction with oxygen, converts the chemical energy from the methane in natural gas into electricity.
Fuel cells, like micro-CHPs, are highly efficient technologies that provide secure and clean energy. They can be used to produce heat and electricity at home, as well as to provide surplus electricity to local grids.