UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


The future of the natural gas pipeline system in the UK

(c) UCL Creative Media

21 June 2012

The UK has an extensive gas system but studies of decarbonisation pathways using the UK MARKAL least-cost energy system optimisation model have concluded that the natural gas system will be mostly abandoned by 2050 to achieve a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions in 2050 relative to 1990. In this study we examine the possible future role of the gas system in the UK energy system. Firstly, we improve the representation of the gas system in UK MARKAL and add bio-methane and hydrogen injection as gas decarbonisation options. Secondly, we increase the flexibility of the model with the addition of biomass CCS technologies and the use of hydrogen in the industrial sector as new decarbonisation options. Both bio-methane and hydrogen injection contribute to gas system decarbonisation but are insufficient alone to avoid the gas system being abandoned in the reference scenario. However, the addition of biomass CCS to the model, for electricity generation or hydrogen production, allows the model to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and relaxes emission cuts in other sectors of the economy. The use of hydrogen to decarbonise industrial processes is also strongly favoured by the model. With these technologies, the gas system continues to dominate space and water heating demand to 2050; conversely, if CCS plants prove uneconomic then the gas system will almost certainly have to be abandoned to achieve the UK emission targets.

The future of the natural gas pipeline system in the UK.

Dodds, P.E., McDowall, W.A.S. (2012)

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