Support the expansion of renewable natural gas production by facilitating greater numbers of RNG-to-grid projects.
The European Union’s 2009 Renewable Energy Directive set a target of 20% renewables in the overall energy mix by 2020. France has set the even more ambitious target of 32% by 2030. Several sources of renewable energy—including renewable natural gas (biomethane)—have the potential to help reach this target. The Gontrand project was set up to support the wider-spread use of renewable natural gas by developing the tools needed for safe, efficient real-time “smart-grid-style” management of gas grids.
France’s first renewable natural gas (biomethane) production unit went online in 2011. Since then, a total of 63 additional units have opened across France. In 2017, 406 GWh of renewable natural gas was injected into the gas grid. A national strategy document issued in 2016 estimated grid-injection volumes of 1,700 GWh by 2018 and 8,000 GWh by 2023—evidence of the benefits of renewable natural gas. The gas is produced from fermentable raw materials (industrial or agricultural byproducts; municipal waste), which are purified and then injected into a gas grid. Renewable natural gas is a clean, renewable source of energy, and government agencies from the national to regional levels are encouraging its production. It can also help solve multiple economic and environmental problems, including recycling waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering dependence on fossil fuels, developing local economies with qualified jobs that cannot be offshored, and reducing the use of chemical fertilizers by replacing them with the solid digestate that remains when gas is produced.
If renewable natural gas has a downside, it is that it is produced in a distributed manner, which makes gas grid management more complex. Renewable and conventional natural gas have the same properties, so each unit has to be able to inject the gas it produces into the grid as soon as the gas becomes available. The grid must also be able to adapt to demand, which can be lower than renewable natural gas supply at the time the gas is injected into the grid. The Gontrand project addressed this major shift in grid management.
The project started in 2014, and the project milestones were to develop, and then validate the technologies required for real-time management of a gas grid carrying gases of different quality levels from multiple sources to end consumers.
- Develop a gas analysis device with communicating capabilities ; the device can transmit data continuously and in real time so that users can track the quality of gas injected into the grid
- Test the sensor on two communications networks (Orange and Sigfox)
- Certify the sensor for use in explosive atmospheres
- Understand the use cases in which malfunctions occur; two scenarios were given particular attention, damage to infrastructure and abnormal pressure on the grid
- Develop a “SmartHub” platform to ensure interoperability between the sensors installed on the grid
- Develop a control room with grid simulation and optimization capabilities leveraging learning algorithms to recommend solutions and assist decision makers
- Complete testing on Grenoble’s Aquapole wastewater treatment plant
- Develop a complete grid management architecture
Project partner Apix Analytics released its MAX-One™ gas sensor developed in conjunction with Astute. This plug-and-play-style sensor can analyze a wide range of gas compounds and families, and addresses the industrial and petrochemical markets.
Further development work is underway to more effectively model business processes so that future partners developing solutions (especially software) will understand the needs of all of the processes involved in the production and distribution value chains.
The Gontrand project demonstrated what can be expected from a real-time gas grid management and decision-assistance tool. The project was presented to potential users, confirming their interest in having a better-integrated management platform for their infrastructures. If the number of renewable natural gas production units increases, a trend that will have to continue in France if the nation is to reach its energy-transition targets, it could spur users to adopt this type of platform.
Bpifrance, Bouches du Rhône General Council, Seine-Saint-Denis General Council, Greater Grenoble Intermunicipal Authority, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Regional Council, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Council, Occitanie Regional Council