Gathering pipeline provides more biomethane in the Dutch network

Source: www.gulfoilandgas.com 2/1/2024, Location: Europe

Following preparations lasting about five years, 2024 year marks the start of the gas pipeline conversion between the Dutch towns of Emmen and Ommen. The aim of this is to add more regionally produced biomethane to the national network. As the asset management senior advisor, Jos Luiks is closely involved in the development of this gathering pipeline. ‘As the amounts of locally produced biomethane are increasing, we need to modify the transmission system.’

Biomethane is becoming increasingly important in the energy transition, as it’s a sustainable alternative to natural gas. It can be produced in various different ways. Currently it’s mainly produced in anaerobic digestion plants where organic residual materials, such as vegetable waste, sewage sludge or animal manure are ‘fed in’. Following this, bacteria ensure that the methane is released from these materials in an anaerobic digestion process. This is biomethane. It is carbon-neutral and has the same properties as natural gas, so it can be used in the existing gas network straight away.

Blending obligation
‘In the future, the built environment will be needing 1.6 billion cubic metres of gas,’ explains Luiks. ‘From 2025, gas suppliers will therefore be subjected to a blending obligation of up to 20% biomethane in 2030. The measure forces suppliers to supply a certain amount of biomethane to the built environment. This will boost the market for biomethane. But a lot of biomethane will still need to be added; we’re nowhere near the required level with the current 250 million cubic metres. Based on the Dutch Climate Agreement, Gasunie and other parties have the ambition for 2030 to grow to 2 billion cubic metres of biomethane production. That’s a huge amount, but thanks to the blending obligation, a growing number of key parties are showing actual interest in biomethane. And because of this we’re seeing growth in the production of biomethane. We’re now in the middle of building that transition.’

Surplus in the summer
This planned growth is a challenge for biomethane producers, but also for network operators. ‘We need to take steps that allow us to process the growth in biomethane production in the summer as well. There are many biomethane producers in the north-east of the Netherlands, often with anaerobic digestion plants. The bacterial anaerobic digestion makes biomethane production very consistent. This consistently high biomethane production is obviously a very positive thing for the region, but as demand for gas is much lower in the summer, a surplus of biomethane will be generated, and we’ll need to take care of that in some way.’

Scaling up to the 66 bar network
‘We have a number of options for that,’ continues Luiks. ‘Biomethane is produced under a pressure of 8 bar, so it would be smart to get as much gas as possible into the network of the regional TSOs, which also has a pressure of 8 bar. No extra compression will then be required. However, those networks are already quite full in the summer due to the lower demand for gas. In the meantime, more and more producers are getting involved and existing producers are increasing their production. This is why major biomethane producers are also feeding their gas to the 40 bar network, which supplies gas to industry and other parties. But that network is also filling up, so the biomethane will have to be transported through the national 66 bar network.’

Making suitable as a gathering pipeline
An existing 60-kilometre natural gas pipeline between Emmen and Ommen, which runs through the entire region, turned out to be the solution. ‘This pipeline offers the possibility of connecting the regional networks of the network operators Enexis, Rendo and Coteq. By making the pipeline suitable as a gathering pipeline, we’ll only need one compressor site to feed the biomethane into the national gas network at the right pressure.’ This approach may also work at other sites. For instance, Gasunie is investigating whether this kind of gathering pipeline can also be developed in Friesland.

Blending in Ommen
Ommen is a key hub in the Dutch gas network. This means that a lot of gas passes through and the biomethane can be blended in. Luiks: ‘One challenge faced when blending with the national 66 bar network is that the gas quality in the high-pressure system is different from the low-pressure system,’ explains nn. ‘For instance, the levels of oxygen and odorants are different. So you can’t feed it in just like that, as the gas will no longer match the required quality. However, as we can blend the biomethane properly at a gas hub, we’ll be able to do so in Ommen.’

Hardly any impact for local communities
The use of the gathering pipeline will require some technical modifications around the existing pipeline. Current customers on the pipeline will also require new connections, and compressors for biomethane will have to be installed in Ommen. The gathering pipeline will be put into service from late 2025, says Luiks. ‘As we’re using an existing pipeline and compression at an existing site, the impact on local communities will be minimal. This project also serves a good cause that will allow the production of lots of biomethane. I’m glad that I can make a contribution to this.’


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