As a result of policy and technology uncertainties, the future of the natural gas network under a net zero carbon target, is likely to be one of the following scenarios: (a) substantial decommissioning, b) maintaining it for a small number of larger industrial customers, and (c) repurposing it to carry decarbonized gases such as hydrogen, Trend reports with reference to Oxford Institute of Energy Studies (OIES).
"It is also possible to have a mix of these solutions across a country based on the needs and the specific features of a region. The conditions under which each of these scenarios are realized depend on a number of important factors. There is a high degree of uncertainty when it comes to the future of natural gas. It is highly scenario-dependent and consequently policy-driven. The path to net zero, and technologies adopted in each natural gas-consuming sector, have implications for natural gas demand and consequently for utilization of the gas network," reads the latest report from OIES.
The Institute experts note that gas demand in the power generation sector, for example, will affect the gas transmission network whereas the gas demand in the residential sector will affect both the transmission and distribution grids.
"Overall, there is little doubt that the use of natural gas will decline if climate targets are taken seriously but key questions are by how much and over what time frame. Obviously, these are global scenarios and the picture can be completely different at the level of regions and individual countries due to the different pathways for decarbonization in different countries and regions, such as Europe, China, India and Latin America. In large countries, even the final outcome is very likely to be regional rather than national due to a high level of idiosyncrasies within these countries. The second issue is that policy uncertainties make it difficult to predict reliably the future utilization of gas networks," reads the report.
OIES notes that in Europe, which is a region in which natural gas constitutes a large share of primary energy consumption, the three main end-use sectors for natural gas are domestic/commercial heating, industrial process load, and power generation. Apart from the power generation that has almost a clear decarbonization pathway, the other two sectors have a wide range of decarbonization options, which include technologies and fuels such as electrification; hydrogen from renewables; biogas; synthetic gas; carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), among others. Depending on the strategy decided for the decarbonization of domestic heat and industrial load processes, the share of natural gas will vary in the primary energy consumption.