New rules and ways for green gas

In order to achieve the climate targets, energy systems will have to change significantly in the coming years. Only recently, the government presented the hydrogen strategy, and further plans and measures are imminent. Gas Connect Austria has already been testing for years which means can be used to convert its own gas infrastructure to transport green gases such as biogas and hydrogen. At the Zukunftsforum Gas 2022, Managing Director Stefan Wagenhofer made it clear what regulatory and political framework conditions are needed for this.

The advantages of gaseous energies are that they can be stored in large quantities and transported quickly and safely via the well-developed pipeline networks. The gas networks run underground and therefore do not harm people or nature. They stand for security of supply and are by far the most efficient and cost-effective way of transporting energy. In addition to natural gas, green gases such as biogas and up to a certain amount of hydrogen can already be transported in the pipelines. However, new legislation, subsidies and recognition of conversion costs are needed to increase the extent to which green gas can be transported.

Room for maneuver currently severely limited

In order to make the network fit for hydrogen, the components of the pipeline system, such as pipes, seals, fittings, compressors, etc., must be converted, since hydrogen has different properties than natural gas. If a higher proportion of hydrogen or even only hydrogen is to be transported, it is essential to modify the pipeline system. To make this possible, the framework conditions must be adapted and the financing models revised. At present, GCA's room for maneuver is considerably restricted by legal regulations: Gas grid operators currently lack the authorizations to transport hydrogen or convert renewable electricity into hydrogen, and the question of financing is also open.

The most important demands at a glance:

  • Infrastructure funding at EU and national level.
  • IPCEI pots that are large enough (IPCEI = Important Projects of Common European Interest)
  • Support for the projects by the authorities at the European Commission
  • Transmission system operators to be allowed to own and operate H2 networks
  • Recognition of infrastructure conversion costs in the regulated sector
  • Transmission system operators should be allowed to own and operate power-to-gas plants in a grid-serving manner in the form of e.g. sandbox projects

Long-term commitment and vision

Gas Connect Austria is an important energy partner for the future with many decades of expertise in the transport of gas and the Baumgarten gas hub, which is essential for the European network. Regardless of the legal framework conditions that still need to be changed, GCA is planning ahead long-term. In a study, we have tested our entire network for hydrogen compatibility and analyzed the extent to which adjustments are necessary. When purchasing new components, we ensure as far as possible that they are hydrogen-compatible, and we are also designing our current projects to increase transport capacities and diversify routes in the direction of hydrogen. In addition, we are working on several national and EU-wide initiatives and mergers on future energy supply that is in line with climate targets.