National Grid has an agenda to promote green and renewable energy, partly because it wants to be seen as a thought leader in that area and partly because it is in its own interest to do so.
More from: The future of biogas is here now
We have been looking for a while to technologies that would help convert at least some of the fossil fuel in the gas pipelines to renewable fuel.
There were two potential technologies that could produce renewable gas: anaerobic digestion (AD) and gasification. The latter was less developed; gasification from waste to syngas has not really been done anywhere in the world until now.
We recognised that the kind of feedstock availability for gasification was much bigger than AD because you have got various woody waste, paper, card, fabric – the kind of thing that can feed into a gasifier. And that increases the potential of the feedstocks for creating renewable gas.
We believe that total gas consumption in the country at the moment is around 750 terrawatt hours (TWh) a year for everything – electricity generation, industry, homes and so on – and that the absolute maximum potential for biomethane from AD is around 40TWh a year, which is relatively small but significant.
But if we utilise all the feedstocks to feed into gasification to make syngas, that probably opens up another 100-150TWh, which starts to look like a more significant proportion of the total gas demand.
Gas demand will be decreasing over time as people have more efficient appliances and better insulated houses so, during the next decade, gas demand is forecast to fall from 750TWh a year down perhaps to 400- 500TWh. So the percentage that could be made up from biomethane and bioSNG starts to look like a more significant proportion of the total.
We see the future of the pipeline network as being important to our business, and [bioSNG] is a way of carrying on providing people with gas for heating and transport as [it] takes off.
David Pickering is bioSNG project manager, National Grid - as told to Andrea Lockerbie
Availability of feedstock is key