Natural gas is permanently transient

Luc Williams

“Natural gas – temporary, but necessary” – this is the title of the discussion that took place at the European Economic Congress in Katowice as part of the thematic track “Industry, raw materials, fuels”.

European Union policy defines gas as a transition fuel, i.e. a temporary acceptable alternative to coal before achieving climate neutrality. But gas is not only a source of energy, but also a raw material for the fertilizer and chemical industries. Therefore, industry representatives emphasize that gas is necessary for them and cannot be closed within a time frame.

– Grupa Azoty uses 2.4 billion cubic meters annually. gas, we are the largest consumer of this raw material in Poland. We mostly consume it for technological purposes in the production of hydrogen and ammonia, and then – processing into final products, in our case mainly fertilizers, but also oxo alcohols, melamine, caprolactam. From the point of view of physics and chemistry, we cannot change much, but from the point of view of regulations that are beginning to reach the industry, we have very important requirements – said Hubert Kamola, vice-president of Grupa Azoty SA.

He pointed out that Qatar, one of the largest producers and exporters of gas, is increasing its production and export of LNG and is ordering more methane carriers, while the regulations applicable to the Group have “quite significant cost implications for which we must prepare.”

Orlen sees the matter similarly, as it is both a consumer and a gas producer. As Adam Czyżewski, the company's chief economist, emphasized, the word “decarbonization” is commonly used, which is associated with moving away from coal, while the goal of the transformation is not to move away from coal, but to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

– If we are in a country where coal still dominates the energy sector, is switching to gas installations, which emit half as much carbon dioxide, a reduction in emissions or not? Of course it is. We in Poland are not able to switch from coal to windmills and photovoltaics, we must have some kind of fuel that will support the existing systems until, for example, we build a nuclear power plant – he pointed out.

He recalled that in 2013, the International Energy Agency announced in its “World Energy Outlook” report that gas is the target fuel, provided that carbon dioxide capture installations are used.

Prospects for the gas market were presented by Sławomir Hinc, president of the management board of GAZ-SYSTEM.

– I subscribe with both hands to the statements of our two largest users when it comes to the gas transmission system. Indeed, the gas is even permanently transient. This does not mean, of course, that we do not look into the future, do not follow and do not participate in the creation of regulations that aim at energy transformation and changing the energy mix, introducing more decarbonized gases into our strategy – he noted.

As he emphasized, the gas transmission system in Poland has been expanded after many years in such a way that today it ensures excellent security of gas supplies to customers and users throughout the country.

– For many years, the policy of diversifying the transmission infrastructure was continued and stably pursued across divisions. Today, we are well prepared to provide every user with many new trading opportunities – said Sławomir Hinc.

But what are the prospects for the future?

– We see in long-term forecasts that the demand for the transmission service will grow in the coming years, but then it begins to stabilize. Of course, the longer these forecasts are prepared, the greater their error, but we can see that there is a regression in growth in terms of the demand for the transmission service, noted the president of GAZ-SYSTEM.

Therefore, the company is looking towards hydrogen and biomethane.

– These are two large elements intended to serve the energy transformation of the Polish economy, in which GAZ-SYSTEM will actively participate – assured Sławomir Hinc. – Biomethane is structurally and chemically the same natural gas, but its origin makes it green. Each amount of biomethane introduced into the network will improve the ecological dimension of the system's functioning, he explained.

The president of GAZ-SYSTEM also said that the company is not idle in the face of the “hydrogen boom”. It has just started the project of a hydrogen map of Poland, i.e. mapping the places where hydrogen can be produced and the places where it can be consumed.

– On this basis, we would like to determine the target network of water pipelines that could be installed in Poland. But I also warn against hyperoptimism. This does not mean that these connections will be built immediately, because there are tens of billions more to be invested in the network, he noted.

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