Gas as an important component in the German energy mix
Natural gas is used as an energy source in almost all areas of everyday life – from heating to mobility, power generation and chemical industry applications. Whilst gas consumption today is still largely based on the use of conventional natural gas, the importance of renewable and decarbonised gases is set to increase in the future.
With a share of almost 25 percent, gas is the second most important primary energy source in the energy mix in Germany after mineral oil. According to the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen), around 600 TWh of gas were consumed as final energy in 2017 (compared with 518 TWh/a in the electricity sector). The heating market accounts for the lion's share of natural gas demand at almost 50 percent, but aside from this natural gas is also used especially for electricity generation in gas-fired power plants (a further 211 TWh). Natural gas is also playing an increasingly important role in the mobility sector. By using liquefied natural gas (LNG), cruise ships and tankers can at least replace some of their heavy fuel oil and contribute to a noticeable reduction in global pollutant output. In addition, compressed natural gas (CNG) serves as a fuel for cars, trucks and buses that produces significantly lower emissions than diesel and petrol. Already today, gas-powered vehicles of many brands offer an environmentally friendly alternative that is in no way inferior to petrol in terms of range and refuelling time. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) emit 25 percent less CO2 than petrol, even if the fuel is 100 percent natural gas, and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by as much as 99 percent compared to diesel. Currently, the share of biomethane in CNG is already 20 percent on average in Germany, and the trend is rising. CO2 emissions are reduced even further if green gases (biomethane, synthetic methane) are added to the gas used. Admixture rates can be as high as 100 percent. This is already a reality at around 150 CNG filling stations in Germany. This means that a CNG vehicle today is already almost climate-neutral.
At present, gas consumption is still largely based on conventional natural gas. However, other gaseous media, such as renewable and decarbonised gases including hydrogen and synthetic methane, are gaining in importance and will make a significant contribution to achieving climate protection targets. Eventually, gas will be completely climate-neutral.
Germany has to import more than 90 percent of its natural gas, primarily from Norway, Russia and the Netherlands. At the so-called cross-border interconnection points (IPs), the gas is fed into the German transmission system, which consists of 40,000 kilometres of underground pipelines. The transmission system operators ensure that the gas ordered by the traders reaches the shippers, i.e. downstream distribution system operators such as municipal utilities or other energy suppliers as well as industrial consumers and storage operators.