Electrification of pipelines – a most efficient way towards decarbonization
Proceedings Publication Date
Mike Liepe
Benjamin Dennhardt, Stefan Diezinger, Mike Liepe
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Meanwhile countries representing approximately 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions have set a net zero target or have it in political discussion. Companies are pushed by investors and other stakeholders to set up strategies towards decarbonization, as the perception grows that climate risk is investment risk. At the same time, especially in Europe, fossil fuels like gas became scarce, their prices have risen and efficiency programs have been set in place.

Applying this to natural gas pipelines, the majority of power driven emissions result from the compression needs. In the European gas network, we count almost 1000 compression units with an installed capacity of more than 10 GW. This relates to an energy consumption of more than 200 TWh of natural gas a year with roughly a value of 40 bn Euro. Using natural gas or any other fossil fuel to drive compressors firstly keeps unwanted fossil emissions up and secondly uses a large amount of valuable and sellable gas.

Instead, electrification is often the simplest and most efficient method. An electric motor has e.g., a higher efficiency than a fossil driven one. Electric motors with drives are a technology with more than 150 years of experience and come in all kinds of sizes up to around 60 MW. This is more than sufficient even for the largest compression trains in pipelines. In Europe we see already more than 300 electric driven compression trains. Combining this electric drives with (on-site) renewable power generation can provide a reliable and low cost energy source.

The objective of this paper is to show the economic and ecologic benefit for electrification of pipelines., including the opportunities as well as the hurdles. We will conclude on a concrete project in Southern Europe.

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