Launch of SGI White Paper 5 – The flexibility of Gas: What is it Worth?


White Paper 5

Gas networks to provide flexibility and support decarbonisation of energy systems

Natural gas networks will provide flexibility at low cost, while produced and used with low greenhouse gas emissions, says newly launched white paper.

On Monday 20 July, the Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI) at Imperial College London launched a new white paper titled “The flexibility of gas: what is it worth?” following a live webinar under the same name. The report marks the fifth release in a series of SGI reviews investigating literature on topical and controversial issues of relevance to the role of natural gas in future sustainable energy systems.

The live webinar, chaired by SGI Director, Dr Adam Hawkes, featured a presentation of the white paper followed by a panel commentary. Dean of Engineering, Professor Nigel Brandon, co-chaired the session and oversaw the Q&A part of the webinar which included questions from the audience that included academia, government and industry stakeholders and a brief discussion between panellists.

Key findings from the white paper focus primarily on the flexibility in gas networks and the value of systems that support energy demand in all forms. Most importantly, gas production rates successfully vary according to demand, geological storing and linepack both facilitate the storage of natural gas, and increasing supply through import reduce the summer/winter gas price spread.

In his presentation, lead author, Dr Jamie Speirs, pointed to report findings related to the challenges for future gas networks and said “in order to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, future gas networks might have to introduce more hydrogen or natural gas/hydrogen blends and that will reduce the energy density of those networks which has an impact for flexible operations potential cost”. He added that opportunities for future research include learning more about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions associated with flexible low carbon networks.

Following the presentation from Dr Speirs, the webinar opened the floor to discussion where Professor Pierluigi Mancarella of the Melbourne Energy Institute linked the white paper with his ongoing research into multi-energy systems. According to him, “multi-energy systems incorporating both natural gas and electricity for instance have a superior flexibility compared to the two systems individually and the superior flexibility comes from the fact that you have more degrees of freedom in the optimised system because of the positives gas offers.”

From there, Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy & Investor Relations at Snam, Camilla Palladino, provided new insight on interesting, future energy systems using long distance transport: “We think that one of the interesting things about long distance transport and the way it can provide flexibility to the energy system overall is the opportunity provided by North Africa which is already linked to Europe with the 45bcm of transport capacity to Italy. This is obviously an asset that could be used and it can support an integrated European decarbonised system where some of the renewable generation is not on European soil but in Africa which is handy because there is lots of sun and lower seasonality in terms of production and the cost of transporting the renewable energy as hydrogen is relatively low.”

As investigation into future energy systems continues, evidence reviews help support the ongoing debate around values and flexibility provided by gas networks.


Sara Knudsen

Sara Knudsen
Communications Division

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