From L-gas to H-gas

Anton Broenink, director of Strategy and Optimization
Anton Broenink, director of Strategy and Optimization

'The discovery and development of the Groningenveld, around fifty years ago, marked the beginning of the natural gas era in The Netherlands, or actually in the north-west of Europe. Soon after the discovery of the field, many households and the industrial sector were connected to the gas from Groningen. This not only happened in The Netherlands, but also in Germany, Belgium and northern France. 

The gas from Groningen is of a unique quality, because it contains around 15 percent nitrogen and has a lower calorific value in comparison to Russian gas, Norwegian gas and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). The equipment in our homes and in industry is set to this gas quality and will have to be adjusted to handle gas of different qualities. 

The total market for the gas from Groningen is approximately 70 billion cubic meters per year. Last year, of this total, 42.4 billion cubic meters came from the Groningenveld and approximately 10 billion cubic meters from smaller fields in The Netherlands and Germany. The rest of the demand is fulfilled by Russian and Norwegian gas, which is mixed with nitrogen to achieve the same calorific value as that of the gas from Groningen. This is done at Gasunie facilities in Ommen, Pernis, Wieringermeer and Zuidbroek. Because of an expected drop in the production of the Groningenveld in the coming years, and a strongly declining production of the small fields, the Gasunie facility in Zuidbroek will be substantially expanded within the foreseeable future. This expansion will be put into service in 2019. Because the production in Groningen will decline even further in the distant future, in time, the one expansion will not be sufficient. However, continuously expanding the nitrogen installations is expensive. 

That is why the sector is searching for an alternative.

In cooperation with the Dutch, German, French and Belgian authorities, Gasunie Transport Services (GTS) and GasTerra have agreed to 'convert' various market areas in phases, to make them suitable for other gas qualities, such as Norwegian and Russian gas and LNG. It has been agreed that this conversion will be implemented in Germany between 2020 and 2030. Belgium and France will also convert their systems in the period 2024-2030. Because of these agreements, the Netherlands can postpone conversion activities until 2030.

Germany can start converting relatively quickly, as the central boilers in German homes are already suitable for various gas qualities. This does not apply to the boilers used by Dutch households. The Dutch government is working on adjusting the gas appliance guidelines. This means that all new future appliances have to be suitable for multiple gas qualities. The expectation is that between now and 2030, appliances in most houses will have to be replaced. This will make the conversion in the Netherlands a lot easier.

That GasTerra is involved in this discussion is quite special. Fifty years ago, we were committed to introducing gas from Groningen to our customers. Now, we are helping customers prepare for a future with other gas than gas from Groningen.'

Anton Broenink, director of Strategy and Optimization