Energy transition: towards a cleaner world with low-carbon molecules
The energy transition is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Switching to a sustainable, renewable energy supply requires major efforts. We are making these efforts day in and day out, but we are not alone. We have joined forces with industry and many other partners to strive towards a common goal: a climate-neutral future.
At Fluxys, we are doing this by accelerating the repurposing of our extensive infrastructure to transport low-carbon molecules such as hydrogen to industry, and captured CO₂ from industry. We want to be the key infrastructure partner for accelerating the energy transition.
The climate challenge is enormous and industry needs solutions so it can keep its activities and employment where they already are.
Together with industry and our partners, we are accelerating the energy transition. We are developing the necessary hydrogen and CO2 infrastructure for the Belgian and northwest European economy. We want to start transporting by 2026.
Pascal De Buck
Managing Director and CEO
In Fluxys Belgium we established the nextgrid business unit to optimally reinforce our strategy's focus on the energy transition. This business unit will serve as the driving force behind energy transition projects in Belgium and projects directly related to the Belgian energy ecosystem.
Why is the energy transition so important?
We fully support the climate targets set out in the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal. We are working hard to achieve a 100% carbon-neutral energy system by 2050.
How are we going to do that?
Our mission is clear: shaping together a bright energy future.
How do we make renewable energy the norm?
To decarbonise the energy system, we need all hands on deck. As the European Commission's projections for 2050 show, in a net-zero energy system carbon-neutral electricity and carbon-free molecules – such as hydrogen (H2), biomethane, synthetic methane and biofuels – will work hand in hand, which is why gas and electricity networks must be able to work in tandem.
This means electrification with green power where possible and clean molecules where this is more appropriate. Molecules are a good energy carrier for heating, for sectors that are hard to electrify, such as heavy industry and heavy transport, for the storage of green electricity and as a raw material for the chemical industry, for example.
To make the energy transition a reality, we are repurposing and building infrastructure, working on partnerships and jointly supporting Europe's ambition to become the world's first climate-neutral continent.
What infrastructure does the energy transition need?
Our roots lie in natural gas transmission and transport, but we are working on going green. We are pioneers in the transport of carbon-free molecules and CO2 to help eliminate greenhouse gases from the world. Driven by a deep-rooted sense of duty, we are striving towards a greener energy supply.
In addition to the conventional services for methane (CH4), the basic molecule for natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG), we are also developing transport and terminalling facilities for a wide range of molecules: hydrogen and derivatives, such as ammonia, CO₂, biogas and synthetic methane.
First hydrogen/CO2 transmission infrastructure by 2026
Our approach to providing Belgium with the necessary hydrogen and CO2 infrastructure is shaped in cooperation with our customers, the authorities, neighbouring operators, distribution system operators and other stakeholders.
In line with market needs, we aim to have the first hydrogen and/or CO2 pipelines in Belgium ready for use by mid-2026. We expect that the initial commercial commitments and the legal and regulatory framework will underpin that initial infrastructure.
Belgium as an energy hub
We are developing the infrastructure for and between industry in Flanders and Wallonia, and establishing connections with neighbouring countries. This will allow us to develop the appropriate backbone infrastructure and lay the foundation for sustainably cementing Belgium's role as an energy crossroads by making the country a hydrogen and CO2 hub for Northwest Europe, which we are doing with our extensive network of pipelines.
What is the power of our pipelines for the energy transition?
By deploying gas infrastructure to implement the energy transition, we save costs. A comprehensive study has shown that the use of renewable molecules in existing gas infrastructure in the EU will save society €217 billion annually by 2050 compared to an energy system that uses only a minimal share of such molecules.
Did you know that gas infrastructure provides society with energy that has the lowest climate and health impact of all fossil fuels? As we modify that infrastructure to transport growing volumes of carbon-neutral gas, it will serve as a highly efficient platform for a carbon-neutral energy system.
Gas infrastructure has an enormous capacity to store and transport energy and, in addition, to supply large amounts of peak capacity. This gives the energy system the necessary resilience to cope with supplying large amounts of energy and peak capacity – for heating, electricity generation and to serve as a back-up for variable electricity generation using wind and solar.
The infrastructure for transporting and importing H2
Hydrogen (H2) is one of the key elements in ensuring that the energy supply is carbon-neutral. As companies seek to strike a balance between security of supply, climate impact and cost price, hydrogen often emerges as the best option. In addition, there are industrial processes for which electrification is not an option.
Transporting hydrogen via our existing infrastructure is perfectly possible if the market is ready. Of course, switching today seems like the most sustainable move, but the actual switch itself is another matter. It requires a lead time in which collaborations, connections and infrastructure are modified for hydrogen transport.
We are also building terminals where ships can transfer hydrogen from countries with a lot of sun and wind to the mainland, after which the green molecule is pumped into our network.
Our expertise as added value
With our many years of experience in natural gas, we are joining forces with industry and other stakeholders to refashion our infrastructure into three complementary networks for transporting hydrogen, CO2 and methane (natural gas), with carbon-neutral biomethane and synthetic methane gradually replacing methane.
In other words, we will deploy the gas grid for the transport of carbon-free energy carriers and for the circular use of captured CO2. This will allow us to unlock new solutions for industry, which is fully committed to making its activities more sustainable.
Infrastructure for transporting and exporting captured CO2
Where we cannot stop emitting CO2, we have to capture it. For example, the steel, cement and lime industries will continue producing CO2 because it is a by-product of the industrial process. Captured CO2 can be reused in products such as polymers, bricks and steel, or in the production of synthetic methane.
If CO2 is not used in a production process, it can be stored, for example in empty gas fields or underground aquifers. This technology is called carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). We are happy to play a key role as a provider of the infrastructure for transporting captured CO2 to where it will be reused or stored.
And we will be delighted to tell you how we do it.
Which other molecules are we transporting?
In addition to hydrogen and CO2, we can carry other molecules through our pipes.
Biogas is carbon-neutral and is extracted from organic material such as sludge, garden waste, vegetable and fruit waste and animal waste, such as cow manure. If biogas is purified into biomethane, it can be transported without restriction via the existing natural gas networks.
Up to now, biomethane units in Belgium have all been connected to distribution systems. Large facilities can connect to Fluxys' high-pressure network. In 2022, we signed an agreement to connect the Green Logix Biogas facilities in Lommel to our network, with this scheduled to happen in late 2024 or early 2025.
Valbiom was commissioned by the Belgian gas federation gas.be to carry out a study into the potential contribution of locally produced biogas in Belgium, concluding that biogas could cover around one fifth of household gas consumption by 2030.
In addition, biomethane can also be imported from neighbouring countries in the future, using certificates and guarantees of origin. Cross-border exchanges of biomethane should be encouraged by developing an international system of guarantees of origin and sustainability certificates.
Synthetic methane is made by combining green hydrogen with captured carbon. Synthetic methane is carbon-neutral because it reuses captured CO2.
Like biomethane, synthetic methane can be transported without restriction in the existing natural gas networks.
LNG and bio-LNG for heavy goods transport and shipping
Switching to ships and trucks powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas), would help to quickly cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit air pollution, which is why we are also investing in infrastructure and services to open up LNG for these segments.
The advantage of small-scale LNG infrastructure and the fleet of LNG-powered ships and trucks is that no additional investments are needed to switch to carbon-neutral bio-LNG as it becomes available.
LNG truck loading stations
At our LNG terminals in Belgium, France, Greece and Chile, trailers are loaded with LNG to supply LNG-powered ships and filling stations for trucks running on LNG.
Since 2020, the Zeebrugge LNG terminal has been certified as a European approved process plant to make bio-LNG available as a fuel for transport. Switching ships and trucks to bio-LNG can help the sector make the transition to full decarbonisation.
How are we reducing our own climate impact?
Our commitment to systematically reducing our own climate impact is an integral part of our business strategy. In that connection, this commitment is also a core pillar of our Health, Safety and Environment Policy.
In 2018, we launched the Go for Net 0 project with a view to halving the greenhouse gas emissions of our own operations by 2025 compared with 2017 levels. In 2021, we kicked that ambition up a notch by setting the goal of making our own activities carbon-neutral by 2035.
Energy transition: what's next?
We have confidence in the future. With teamwork and partnerships we will achieve our goals and innovation will strengthen our efforts. We fully embrace the energy transition and stand on the shoulders of the best engineers, energy economists and researchers in Belgium.
Joint development of energy sources in the North Sea
We are joining forces with the major gas transmission system operators in Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom to fully exploit the renewable energy potential of the North Sea.
We rely on our major assets to roll out hydrogen pipeline infrastructure, both onshore and offshore, where appropriate by repurposing existing subsea natural gas pipelines and/or building new pipelines. Depending on specific national aspects and market organisation, this experience can also be useful for developing CO2 transport infrastructure.
A balanced grid of green electricity and green hydrogen from North Sea wind is the way forward for reducing overall grid costs while promoting its robustness. Let's join forces so that not a single gust of wind is wasted in the North Sea.
Pioneering research into the accelerating energy transition
Together with various partners and academic institutions, we are conducting research into hydrogen and CO2 infrastructure and the practicalities of repurposing our existing infrastructure for hydrogen and CO2.
FutureGrid tests hydrogen in real conditions
We are working with our British counterpart National Gas and with Northern Gas Networks, the distribution system operator for the North of England, to develop a hydrogen test facility. This facility will test the transmission of hydrogen in real conditions in various domains.
A 'mini-network' of natural gas infrastructure has been built that is separate from the existing network. Tests are an important addition to our own research into the repurposing of existing hydrogen infrastructure. Expert group DNV and the Universities of Durham and Edinburgh are also involved in the test facility.
HyFit and Hysource
These two university projects study the influence of hydrogen on pipeline steels and welding. The results of the HyFit laboratory tests have been presented to FPS Economy.
This research with GRTgaz, National Gas, ENGIE and Transitgas/Swissgas aims to test different types of steel for their sensitivity to hydrogen.
We are looking into the practicalities of hydrogen storage at our Loenhout underground storage site. Extensive technical preparations have been made for the injection of hydrogen into the underground storage facility, and we have carried out the first tests after completing the permit procedures.
Researchers from KU Leuven have developed game-changing hydrogen panels that are a highly efficient means of producing green hydrogen from sunlight as well as water vapour in the air. We are supporting the innovative project with our wide-ranging expertise in the analysis of gases.
H2GridLab is an initiative to establish a participatory laboratory on the Anderlecht site of distribution system operator Sibelga to carry out tests, roll out pilot projects and amass knowledge of green hydrogen and its local storage, injection into networks and role in the decarbonisation of public distribution. H2GridLab has been supported by Belgium's federal Energy Transition Fund.
Interaction between energy networks
University research is being conducted into the interactions between different energy networks. This research is developing a simulation model for the Belgian energy system that integrates electricity, hydrogen, natural gas and CO2.
What can we do for your industry?
Are you considering the energy transition and how your company can prepare for the future?
We will be happy to guide you towards the right solution for you.
Our goals and our commitment to the future
That future will not happen by itself, we have to make it happen. We are preparing our infrastructure. We are offering society new options. Our aim: climate neutrality.
By 2030 we want to offer enough capacity to transport 30 TWh of hydrogen and 30 million tonnes of CO2.
To achieve this goal, we are counting on our employees' ingenuity, entrepreneurship and desire to make an impact.