What is ‘renewable gas’ and is it really just around the corner?

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An orange flame on your stove would be the sign that you are now burning “renewable gas”, the advertorial said, promising that this would happen “sooner than expected”.

Above the article, which ran in The Age last week, was an advertisement for pipeline and distribution company Australian Gas Networks (AGN) showing a gas flame burning an unfamiliar green with the words “renewable gas”.

So what is “renewable gas” and how long could it be before the promise of industry hype becomes reality?

The impression from some of the current advertising might be that this green gas nirvana is just around the corner.

On Facebook, AGN is currently running a 10-second ad where a blue gas flame turns green with the words: “The journey to 100% renewable gas (using green hydrogen) has already begun. Learn more about it and how we are using it to reduce carbon emissions in the gas network.”

In October and November of last year, AGN ran a nearly identical version of the ad that was viewed more than a million times, according to Facebook data.

A few weeks ago, another gas network operator, Jemena, published an advertorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, declaring: “Renewable gas can satisfy our energy hunger”.

So what is going on?

The industry is using the term “renewable gas” to describe both hydrogen produced with renewable energy and biomethane that can be produced from organic waste, such as sewage or human or animal food.

Both forms of gas would be considered carbon neutral, or nearly carbon neutral, because they are not releasing the carbon that was sequestered millions of years ago.

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According to the latest government data, Australia currently consumes 1,647 petajoules (PJ) of gas per year, of which households use only 175 PJ. This compares to 16.4 PJ of biogas consumed (mainly in landfills).

AGN, which has 2.1 million domestic and commercial customers, says in its advertorial that renewable gas will come “sooner than you think,” but in its environmental and social governance report, it says it has a goal of having a 10 % of renewable gas in its network. by 2030.

There is a “broad goal” for all gas to be renewable by 2040 or at the latest by 2050. If this is “sooner than you think”, then congratulations.

A statement from the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, which owns AGN, said: “It is still early days for the renewable gas industry, but AGIG, with the support of state governments, has clear targets for the transition to renewable gas.”

A demonstration site at Hydrogen Park South Australia has delivered renewable gas blends to 700 homes and will roll out to more homes in Adelaide.

The statement said: “There is a lot of work to be done as renewable gas has been in development for a relatively short time, but our customers strongly support our investment in this area.”

Theoretically, biomethane can be a direct exchange for fossil gas without the need for people to change their stoves and other appliances. The same cannot be said for hydrogen.

Once the mixtures reach around 20%, AGIG said “some appliances will need modification or replacement” and the company was working with appliance manufacturers.

Jemena told Temperature Check that it had identified enough biomethane sources to completely replace fossil gas in its network. But this is different from having plants that generate that gas.

When asked by Temperature Check how much carbon-neutral gas it was currently blending, the company said there was “a broad consensus that we could integrate up to 20% biomethane and 20% hydrogen by 2030 across the entire gas network.”

amazing charcoal

Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes: “We need to live in the real world, not with fairies and pixie dust.” Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Senator Hollie Hughes is the Coalition’s shadow assistant to the minister for energy and climate change, and this week she was looking for coal.

“Australia has some of the most amazing coal in the world,” he told Sky News, saying Australia should use more, not less.

Did I say this was the shadow deputy minister for climate change? Regardless, Hughes also had a message for viewers about solar and wind power.

“Renewables don’t exist in a transmissible form that can deliver that kind of power, regardless of what anyone else says. You can say it all you want. The technology does not exist.

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“We need to live in the real world, not with fairies and pixie dust. What might be available in the future doesn’t exist yet.”

Two weeks ago, the goblins at the Australian Power Market Operator released their latest version of a plan to decarbonise the power grid and deliver affordable and reliable electricity.

The plan required no new inventions to bring into existence things that currently do not exist (I have not checked with the Australian Power Market Operator if fairy dust was used to produce the report, or if any fairies were harmed in its production, but I suspect the answer would be no in both cases).

Rather, the plan said more investment was needed in things that exist, such as solar and wind power, batteries, energy storage, and improvements and extensions to the transmission grid.

“Investing in low-cost renewable energy, firm resources, and essential transmission remains the best strategy to provide affordable and reliable energy, protected against international market shocks,” the report said.

Exports of the country’s “incredible coal” produce nearly double Australia’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Australia’s existing solar and wind resources don’t do that.

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