Governments, organizations, industries, and individuals across the world recognize that energy transition is required to meet climate change goals. Early and pro-active consideration and out of the box thinking are needed to successfully adapt to the energy transition future. Utilities and pipeline companies have infrastructure that is well positioned to adapt to energy transition. Topics of interest for facility planners currently related to energy transition include:
Hydrogen blending into natural gas results in the need to transport increased volumes of gas due to hydrogen’s lower energy content. The equations of state, gas composition and gas properties should be carefully considered. Hydrogen blended gas will impact the capacity of the pipeline system, regulating and compressor stations as well as operational items such as pigging velocities. Impacts to customers bills should also be considered as customers may have variability in energy content.
Renewable natural gas injection is limited by the takeaway market of the system. Utilities can increase this market by employing reduced and remote operated regulator set pressures, installing compression to move gas into upstream higher-pressure systems, installing tanks to store excess gas or trucking to CNG injection locations. RNG can also have lower heat content which could require additional modelling to determine heat content contour maps for billing purposes.
Advanced metering will be required for utilities to effectively measure the effectiveness of energy conservation programs and to employ demand response programs. There are other benefits including reduced meter reading costs and improved peak hour and peak day demand estimation.
Government’s policy of restricting or banning natural gas may cause a spiral of increasing costs for a reduced number of customers. Utilities must employ an “all or nothing” approach such that pipes can be retired to reduce O&M costs. Focus on old pipelines and work from extremities towards sources.
Integrated Resource Planning is focused on peak hour and peak day demand reduction to reduce, defer, or avoid pipeline infrastructure using demand side and supply side alternatives. Demand side alternatives include geo-targeted DSM. ICF International Inc.9 was hired by Enbridge to study the impact to peak hour and peak day demand using theoretical modelling. Some energy efficiency options such as upgraded windows, insulation and appliances reduce the peak period demand while smart or programable thermostats increase the peak period demand.
Planning teams considerations and challenges need to consider that demand forecasting, and energy efficiency estimations are not an exact science, and are difficult to estimate with certainty. The demand reduction may be well within the forecast and measurement error. Facilities planning errs on the side of conservatism. Forecasting the need for a facility project far enough ahead to be able to create an energy conservation program and measure its effectiveness needs to happen years before a pipeline project is required considering it takes 5 years to plan a large-scale reinforcement project.
Forecast development for energy transition says that energy consumption cannot be zero as buildings and equipment can only be so efficient. It will take time to transition existing natural gas customers to alternatives. It is unknown how long it will take. The modellers generally do not forecast and are not experts in energy transition.