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Natural gas production fields onshore in The Netherlands are in decline and, over the course of the next decade, will reach the end of their field life. Instead, more sustainable renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are fulfilling a growing proportion of the country’s total energy needs. However, during the day when energy requirements are often at their highest there can be an imbalance between supply and demand, causing grid congestion that could result in a loss of energy supply. Meanwhile, because the gas fields will soon stop production, their locations and related infrastructure are becoming redundant. This leaves us with a question: is there an opportunity to create a more independent renewable energy system by using the redundant gas infrastructure?
In answer to this question, Arcadis has created the Compressed Air Transport and Storage System, also known as eCats. This is an integrated system using redundant natural gas infrastructure to store renewable energy in cases of grid congestion - which occurs when transmission facilities do not have sufficient capacity to deliver the energy required - and restore this energy when needed. This system simultaneously solves the problem of wasted surplus renewable energy, while maintaining the value of the infrastructure at natural gas plants. In this way, the solution for one challenge has presented a perfect opportunity to tackle others.
Compressing surplus renewable energy into air and storing it in out-of-use natural gas pipelines not only reduces grid congestion but means that this energy can be released later via Expanders. This compressed air energy solution has a wide range of applications. Alongside the main characteristic of eCATS being to support energy transition and grid stabilization, this solution can also be used to support district heating or the provision of cold air for ambient conditioning or cooling. In this way, the degree of utilization can be increased by up to 95%. Arcadis and Emmett Green are the owners of the eCATS-concept and are further exploring this innovative concept with Siemens Energy as the preferred engineer and supplier of the eCATS-facility.
These exciting leaps forward are only possible through the seamless collaboration of multiple stakeholders – Arcadis, grid operators, local and national government, landowners, Siemens Energy and Emmet Green, to name just a few.
eCATS is a high-value solution that benefits multiple parties and solves multiple problems. Not only can useful, clean energy be reclaimed when it would otherwise be wasted, but the legacy sites of fossil fuel production are finding a new purpose and becoming a valuable part of the journey to reduce our reliance on climate-harming energy production. It is also an excellent way of reducing the costs of decommissioning.
We are currently collaborating with Siemens Energy and Emmett Green to use eCATS to create a storage facility in the province of Drenthe with a 60MWh capacity, far outstripping The Netherlands’ current largest of 25MWh.
Storing this energy means that the country can continue to increase the proportion of power it uses from renewable sources.