Climate-friendly energy source and natural raw material
Natural gas is the most climate-friendly fossil fuel. Since conventional natural gas is a natural product, it occurs in different forms. In future, conventional natural gas will become increasingly "greener" and thus climate-neutral.
Natural gas is the second most important source of energy in Germany’s current energy mix after mineral oil. At 202g CO2/KWh, its emission factor in relation to fuel consumption is significantly lower than that of other fuels such as hard coal (337g CO2/KWh) or lignite (407g CO2/KWh). A small proportion of the natural gas consumed in Germany is extracted from domestic natural gas deposits or produced in biogas plants, while around 90 percent is imported from Norway, Russia and the Netherlands.
The formation of natural gas can be traced back to processes lasting up to 300 million years. Natural gas was formed by the decomposition of organic material in the absence of air, and then migrated into porous rock layers with gas-tight caprock, where it was trapped. Therefore, natural gas usually has to be extracted from great depths, a process referred to as the "upstream" side of the gas industry. This starts with the detection of potential gas fields, the first step being geophysical explorations, and ends with a test well. If successful, a production pipe is installed through which the gas, which is usually under high pressure, automatically escapes and can be collected for subsequent treatment. The gas escapes from boreholes similar to air from a balloon. Gas treatment and the subsequent transmission, trading and injection into the pipeline network are already part what is known as the "downstream" side of the gas industry. There are a large number of players on the gas market. In addition to producers and traders, they include gas network operators, i.e. transmission system operators (TSOs) and distribution system operators (DSOs). The end users are primarily industrial companies and private households.
Natural gas with different properties
Since conventional natural gas is a natural product, it is available in different forms. The decisive criterion is the carbon content of the natural gas. It determines the calorific value. High-calorific gas (H-gas) has a higher calorific value than low-calorific gas (L-gas) and thus releases more energy per cubic metre of gas. The natural gas produced in Germany and the Netherlands is predominantly L-gas and therefore has a lower calorific value than H-gas from Norway or Russia. With gas reserves in Germany and the Netherlands declining, all areas receiving L-gas will have to be switched to H-gas. This process is called market area conversion and is expected to be completed by 2030.
LNG for the global transportation of natural gas
Natural gas is not only transported by pipeline but also by sea in tankers, which requires the gas to be cooled down to minus 162 degrees Celsius and turned into liquefied natural gas (LNG). Following unloading at the destination, it is regasified and fed into the pipeline system. This is how much of the gas from overseas – such as the USA, Nigeria or Qatar – is imported. At present there are no LNG terminals in Germany that allow tankers to land their gas for direct injection into the German gas network, but potential sites in northern and eastern Germany are being examined. In neighbouring France, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands, LNG terminals already exist and contribute to the diversification of supply sources and thus to security of supply in Germany.