December 9, 2022

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Shift - with or without gas?  The problem is the uncontrolled release of methane

Shift – with or without gas? The problem is the uncontrolled release of methane

Currently 70-75 percent. Energy in Poland is produced from coal. Gas is responsible for 10 percent. Electricity production, however, the consumption of blue fuel in the economy as a whole is much higher. Industry consumes up to 40 percent. Gas consumed in Poland. In addition, there is consumption in households at the level of 22 percent.

The Polsat Plus group and the Polsat Foundation together for children from Ukraine

Last year, gas demand reached more than 23 billion cubic meters. However, consumption will continue to increase as we consider plans to build gas-fired power plants to replace worn out coal-fired units. At the moment, seven large gas and steam units are in operation – Płock (Orlen, 596 MW), Żerań (PGNiG, 497 MW), Włocławek (Orlen, 463 MW), Stalowa Wola (Tauron and PGNiG, 450 MW), Lublin ( PGE, 231 MW), Zielona Góra (PGE, 198 MW) and Gorzów Wielkopolski (PGE, 138 MW). Soon more will be ready: Dolna Odra (PGE, 2×700 MW), Ostrołęka (Energa, 745 MW) and Czechnica (PGE, 180 MW). But this is not the end, there are plans for more investments.

Bernard Swoczyna, an expert with Instrat’s Energy and Climate Program, believes that plans to build gas-fired power plants are based on incorrect assumptions. – There is a danger that they will remain traces of a misleading idea – he believes.

He adds that in line with the country’s energy policy, gas consumption will increase by a third by 2040, and according to more recent data, this increase will be even greater. He stresses that Poland is the only country outside Belgium that plans to switch to blue fuels to a large extent. – In other European countries, consumption until 2030 will remain at the current level or decrease – he says.

Meanwhile, gas prices are very high and unpredictable on any time horizon. In recent years, they reached 10-30 euros per megawatt-hour, after the outbreak of the war, they jumped to 200 euros, now they are moving around 80-100 euros per megawatt-hour. – If a third of power plants use gas, the price of electricity will be very high – emphasizes Swoczyna.

There are also risks related to the availability of raw materials. If Russia cuts off all its gas from the West now, Poland will lose the opportunity to buy from Germany, it will also be difficult to import the appropriate quantities through the Baltic Gas Pipeline, which connects the national transportation system with deposits in Norway, because there will be more people willing to buy gas from the North .

Diana Maciąga, Bernard Swoczyna and Krzysztof Mrozek of the Polish Green Network are proponents of switching from coal directly to renewables.

Unbearable gas investment plans are mollifying the European Green Deal. It sets ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – by more than half by 2030 and fully by 2050 (…) The REPowerEU plan aims to accelerate the green transition. It is also worth noting that interest in gas is declining due to higher prices for raw materials – says Mrozek. – In my opinion, one should talk not only about contempt, but also about degassing. Diversification of gas supplies is a wrong solution and a dead end, it pushes us to finance other systems, makes us dependent on price fluctuations in the market and weakens energy sovereignty in the EU and Poland – he adds.

At the same time, she warns against rehabilitating coal. He points out that energy dependence on fossil fuels is harmful and dangerous. It should make way for renewable energy projects, and local energy groups, while increasing industry energy efficiency and decarbonization. It is also necessary to lift restrictions related to the construction of onshore windmills as soon as possible – markets are waiting for the lifting of the 10H rule, which has practically halted onshore wind projects in the country.

Many environments in the country, including energy companies and industry, assert that 100% of coal-based sources cannot be replaced by renewable sources immediately. Gas, due to its lower emissions, is being treated as a transition fuel to help sectors such as energy and industry move forward with the transformation process.

Transformation is a special challenge, incl. For combined heat and power plants. The peculiarity of Polish heating is that it has the largest number of high-capacity heating systems in the European Union. The length of the heating network in the country is more than 21 thousand. how much. Industry representatives say it clearly – if we want to move away from coal, we should focus on gas. They don’t see any other way for themselves. They can of course be helped by waste incineration plants, etc., but they need the main fuel to ensure supplies are at the right level.

Market participants point out that renewables are unstable and cannot always guarantee adequate amounts of electricity or heating. System stabilizers are necessary in the form of, for example, gas units, which are activated when the power in the system is insufficient, or nuclear power plants. The problem of instability of energy supply can also be solved when large-scale energy storage or hydrogen technologies are developed.

About 40 percent. Methane emissions come from nature, 60 percent. for a businessman. As part of anthropogenic emissions, as much as 40 per cent. Emissions come from agriculture, 35 per cent. of the energy sector and 20 percent. of waste storage. – Methane emissions related to human activities are increasing. Concentration has halved since the Industrial Revolution, which has translated into an increase in temperature of about 0.5°C — says Diana Maciuga, an energy and climate expert at Braconia na Rzechkis Estut.

Methane leakage is a big problem. They occur throughout the production chain of gas and other fossil fuels, from extraction through transportation, liquefaction, regasification, leakage from pipelines and at the point of consumption. Methane is an odorless gas (it is enriched by smell only in the processing process), and its emissions are invisible. So far, not much attention has been paid to this problem, but it will change as technologies develop to monitor this process.

The dropout rate ranges from 2.3 to 9%. The International Energy Agency estimates that methane leaks in the energy sector are 70 percent. Higher than that results from official data, which is underestimated – says Maciąga. He adds that when supply chain leakage exceeds 2.4-3.2 percent, the impact of gas energy production on the climate is worse than that of burning coal.

A campaign led by a group of experts was dedicated to the methane leak. They traveled all over Europe, recording methane gas leaks from various facilities. Over the course of a year, they visited eleven countries and discovered more than 400 spill sites. The methods they used did not allow to quantify the methane leak, and only one could infer that such a leak had occurred.

Experts also appeared in Poland. They examined, among other things, the vicinity of the LNG terminal in Owenogese, where they discovered a small leak from the emergency vent chimney. However, they were unable to access the device itself, as they were recording from a distance. They also recorded leaks along the Yamal pipeline and at the gas compressor station in Szamotuły. – Nobody in Poland deals with these leaks – Maciąga alerts.

This, however, will change. According to Wojciech Modzelewski, an attorney with ClientEarth, Europa intends to change its approach to the issue of the methane leak. Emissions must be controlled, and there is a special satellite system to help with this.

Modzelewski notes that the most harmful are the deductions made during maintenance work. Then everything in the gas pipeline must be released into the atmosphere. The European Union’s methane regulation prohibits this type of activity. Every spill must be reported to the inspection body and only in some cases will such deductions be allowed. The controlling entity will assess the reporting’s compliance with the regulation’s methodology, perform an inspection, and issue verification statements confirming whether the report has been prepared in accordance with the regulation’s provisions, Modzelewski says.

Regular measurements will be required Routine checks will be done every two years. The changes will be felt by the entire gas industry, including Gaz-System and PGNiG. Regulators hope that the new rules will improve the situation on the market and reduce cases of uncontrolled methane leaks.

Monica Borkoska

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