How Green is your gas?

In 2020, more companies are opting for greener gas than ever before, and even offering an incentive to those to change their supplier and save money with our environment in mind.

Today, it is confirmed that human activity is the largest cause of global warming, whether that is in our vehicles or our home, but with little knowledge on how to go carbon neutral by ourselves, we believe that introducing a number of simple steps, alongside personal changes that may even improve our quality of life, is the only way to introduce a healthier climate to the wider economy, immediately.

There are three main ways to make our gas greener,

Working towards Net Zero

When we talk about net zero, we are referring to a world where the emissions produced to create your gas or electricity is equal to what we put back into the atmosphere. This could stop us from building up the debt that has been developing for years.

In 2017, Governments worldwide discussed this concept with the intention of achieving balance between emissions and removing greenhouse gasses in The Paris Agreement; the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change outline the Paris Agreement here.

Climate Change Committee’s report “Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming” recommends a number of steps to making your gas greener, including a new emissions target for the UK, and claims that Scotland has had a larger capacity to remove emissions in the past than the UK in its entirety, suggesting a net-zero date of 2045.

There are a number of ways to do this, and instead of the unrealistic ideology of removing the use of any and all damaging gases, net zero leaves room for leftovers, or residual gas in sectors which may be harder to control, such as manufacturing.

Research tells us that taking steps towards negative emissions can be as easy as planting trees, and working to help deforestation. Trees absorb CO2 in the atmosphere for us through photosynthesis, as well as helping the soil around them capture larger amounts of carbon, too.

Following this, though, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has the potential to capture up to 90% of CO2 created in electricity and industrial processes, like cement production. This works by taking CO2 before it is released into the atmosphere, and by burning fossil fuels, or using hydrogen and oxygen, the CO2 is compressed into a liquid state and pumped 1km or more underground, to be stored into reservoirs, coal beds or deep saline aquifers.

As an opposition to CCS, Direct Air Capture (DAC) is a process run by machines that directly suck CO2 from the air to permanently store, creating a net zero as previously discussed. Some sources claim that these machines could cut the cost of reducing carbon emissions in half, though these machines are said to have the potential to use a quarter of global energy in 2100.

You can find the first ever written report to approach Direct Air Capture technology here on Nature.com.here on Nature.com.

Using Green Gas, and encouraging other companies to do the same

Green Gas – or biomethane- is methane generated from biomass which is added to the national supply. Just like fossil fuels, biomethane can be used to cook and to heat your home, but because it is made from biodegradable materials, it can be done without the cost on our prescious climate.

Green Gas or biomethane  is predominantly 97% methane in composition, and can be extracted from anaerobic digestion, landfill gas, and synthetic gas from the gasification of biomass. What makes it so useful as it has incredibly similar thermal characteristics to natural gas that already has widespread use and thus infrastructure. If the biomethane meets certain gas quality requirements it is deemed safe and can be considered as “pipeline quality gas”, and in following this it can be used in an existing natural gas network and gas appliances. Raw biomethane gas does not always meet the calorific value (a measure of the energy/heating power stored within gas) so often will have propane added to mixture.

This all feeds into the Green Gas Certification Scheme (GGCS) which is able to track biomethane through the supply chain. By tracking exclusively through the supply-chain it eliminates any double – counting of registered green gasses (as-well as an incentive for producers to inject into the grid rather than using it for electricity) source. Tracking green gas production and sales allows for certification to be provided to customers – to prove they are using a renewable source of energy. This added element of traceability allows customers to have peace of mind, especially business customers with much larger demand.

The GGCS shares its founders as 7 main organisations, all of which harbour an interest in green gas. These 7 are Bio Group, Centrica, CNG Services, E.ON, Milton Keynes, National Grid, and Thames Water, but the scheme is now up to over 50 members.

The UK government stated that they plan to heat around 230,000 homes with the help of the Green Gas Levy (announced in 2020), and encourages Great Britain in its entirety to switch to green gas suppliers, which also results in minimal charges for the consumers starting at 11p per month.

The Green Gas Levy funding will result in more biomethane plants being built, and the UK Government estimates “the potential to prevent as much as 21.6 Tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere – The equivalent to planting over 71 million trees.”

Niccolo Gas Gold is a fully REGO backed gas supply contract.

Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin Certificates – REGOs

REGO scheme provides transparency to consumers about how much of the electricity suppliers source actually comes from renewables. This is an EU scheme so all member states are required to buy into the scheme, and the UK will continue in this scheme post-Brexit. REGO certificates are issued on the basis of one certificate for every megawatt hour (MWh) of eligible renewable energy. These are distributed to the generators of this energy.

Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin – RGGO

RGGOs are very similar to REGOs – but are instead issued for every kWh of biomethane that is injected into the grid and also registered as part of the scheme. These certificates are unique identifiers of each kWh. These can then be transferred from the producers of green gas to account holders within the GGCS scheme database. From here it can be allocated to a gas consumer either through a green gas tariff or directly.

Once allocated to a consumer they are essentially matching the gas they have withdrawn and used to a unit of green gas produced and placed into the same network. Once this match occurs the RGGO is retired and unavailable to any other consumer.

Supporting Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsetting is rooted in fixing the negative externalities associated with their carbon footprint. At a small-scale personal-level, it will be seen through an extra charge for carbon-emitting services such as taking a flight. A monetary value is placed on emissions, and then a total value is calculated for how damaging these emissions are. This is then passed onto the consumer to pay to an offset company to reduce emissions elsewhere in the world by the same amount. This, in theory, leads to a morally sound flight through making the flight “carbon neutral”. Any activity that invests in reducing carbon emissions can be considered carbon offsetting, which is often represented by carbon credits.

Briefly, carbon credits are a permit given to a business or provider to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere.

At a corporate level carbon neutrality is often achieved through outsourcing the entire process to another company. Often it is too time consuming or costly for large corporations to calculate this figure themselves. Companies will offer services such as sourcing and purchasing renewable energy or gas certificates – reducing carbon footprint and negative externalities, and thus helping them on their way to carbon neutrality.

This can be done through funding projects that reduce the capacity of negative emissions, for example, Google explained here that they have certain standards for their carbon offset projects. As an example, Google will only fund a project if they are aware that without them, no steps would have been taken to reduce our footprint and therefore, they are giving additional support to the environment.

This means that if a close-by farm creates a lot of animal waste, and therefore methane, that does more damage than carbon dioxide, but they had already planned to include an additional methane capture system of their own accord or due to requirement by law, their funding would not be furthering the reach in offsetting carbon emissions, and they would look to find another project or owner that would not otherwise be driven to take part.

A number of examples of carbon offset projects include landfill gas capture and agricultural methane capture; many landfills in the United States, for example, are not held to the same standards as some in the UK, and may not be capturing methane or other gasses to use to create heat or electricity. Funding may allow them to introduce these changes with less difficulty. Just like in animal agriculture, the amount methane produced could lead to similar issues.

Niccolo Gas Green is a carbon offset backed gas supply contract.