Canadian natural gas utility Énergir joined with French utilities GRDF and GRTgaz and Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) this week to announce a new collaboration aimed at advancing the research and development of renewable natural gas and technologies such as power-to-gas.
The collaboration will build upon successes each company has earned in achieving policy initiatives and the development and advancement of new technologies. It will also serve as an opportunity to learn from research and development initiatives currently under development and corresponding regulatory frameworks.
France has adopted a renewable gas standard that calls for renewable natural gas to make up at least 30 per cent of natural gas consumption by 2030. SoCalGas is supporting legislation in California that would require five per cent of core natural gas consumption in the state to come from renewable sources by 2030. Énergir has a target to distribute five per cent of renewable natural gas by 2025 and is working toward efforts to have a fully developed renewable natural gas marketplace by 2020.
"In this energy transition era, we believe renewable natural gas is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change, as well as being a significant contributor to energy self-reliance and the circular economy," Martin Imbleau, senior vice-president, Development, Communities, Corporate Affairs and Operational Safety for Énergir, said in a statement. "This collaboration with our partners will allow us to share our progress and results toward our environmental and social objectives."
"We are excited to collaborate with our French and Canadian counterparts to speed up the development of the next generation of innovations including renewable natural gas, solar-powered hydrogen generation, fuel cells, power-to-gas and other technologies,” added Sharon Tomkins, vice-president of customer solutions and strategy for SoCalGas.
Another key to advancing renewable energy resources is the research and development of long-term energy storage solutions, the companies said. According to a 2017 Lawrence Berkley National Lab study, by 2025, between 3,300 and 7,800 gigawatt-hours of excess solar and wind energy will be wasted in California alone.
SoCalGas, the largest natural gas distribution utility in the U.S., is supporting the research and development of technologies that can harness that excess renewable electricity and convert it into energy that can be transported and stored for prolonged periods of time using existing infrastructure to deliver economic benefits to the state's ratepayers.
Last year, for example, SoCalGas announced a first of its kind project in the United States that converts hydrogen generated from excess renewable power into pipeline quality natural gas for use in homes, businesses and in transportation. If all the excess solar and wind energy detailed in the National Labs' study were converted through the biomethanation process and stored as renewable natural gas, it would provide enough renewable energy to heat 158,000 to 370,000 homes or provide renewable electricity to 80,000 to 187,000 homes.
Énergir, Québec’s leading natural gas distribution company with subsidiaries operating in several U.S. states, is also working on a biomethanation project. In partnership with the city of Saint-Hyacinthe, Énergir has been delivering renewable natural gas to the pipeline system since December. Saint-Hyacinthe is the first municipality in Quebec to produce energy through this process.
Another endeavor Énergir and its partners G4 Insights and Greenfield Global are undertaking is the development of a pilot plant to produce renewable natural gas from Canada's abundant supply of forest biomass.
Wind to gas
In France, GRTgaz has begun construction on an industrial-scale power-to-gas demonstration project. Jupiter 1000 will convert surplus electricity generated by wind farms on the Mediterranean coast of southern France into hydrogen and methane syngas. This will be the first project to inject hydrogen and methane syngas into France's natural gas pipeline system. When completed, Jupiter 1000 will have a total generating capacity of one megawatt electric (MWe).
GRDF is working to encourage the injection of renewable natural gas into the distribution network and bring together renewable gas producers. GRDF believes green gas represents the future because it reduces CO₂ emissions and moves toward the goal of carbon neutrality.
Currently, there are 50 active renewable natural gas injection sites in France with an additional 800 projects in progress. Estimates show that up to 776 GWh/yr of renewable natural gas can be injected into the French natural gas network, which is equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 63,600 households or nearly 3,000 buses. Last year, 90,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions were avoided in France thanks to renewable natural gas.
As part of this collaboration, project results will be shared between the utilities. The goal is to learn from the potential successes and challenges of the projects and further build on biomethanation and power-to-gas technologies.