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The environmental advantages of using natural gas

Since the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, awareness has increased around the need to ensure sustainable development of human activity while also meeting national energy needs in a financially competitive manner.

One of the possible responses to these needs is natural gas, which is not only more cost effective than oil, but also “cleaner”. Indeed, it has been calculated that natural gas combustion reduces CO2 emissions by roughly 25-30% compared to the combustion of oil products.

In addition, the reduction in carbon dioxide can be further reinforced by the possibility of using natural gas in high-performance applications and technologies, such as condensing boilers, heat pumps, cogeneration plants and combined cycle plants for the production of electricity and heat. For example, a combined cycle plant running on gas reduces CO2 emissions by an average of 52% compared to a traditional fuel oil plant.

In addition, new technologies are making it possible to obtain methane gas from renewable sources as well. One of these is anaerobic digestion. In this process, the organic substance contained in certain biomasses (i.e., grass clippings) is degraded by selected microorganisms that convert it into methane. After a purification process, the methane thus obtained (called biomethane) may be used in gas distribution networks (and therefore for all domestic uses such as gas stoves and boilers) as well as to fuel methane vehicles.

The European Community also recognises the central importance of renewable sources for the production of electricity and heat, in view of the future scarcity of fossil fuels and to ensure an adequate energy mix capable of guaranteeing energy security. In this regard, "Mandate M475” has set the objectives of the so-called “20-20-20” Package (-20% energy savings, 20% energy from renewables, -20% greenhouse gas emissions).

Methane is considered to be a “clean” fuel and in the future it will become increasingly “renewable”. However, it is necessary to note that while this is a valuable gas, any leaks in the distribution network may be dangerous due to its flammability and dangerous environmental impacts, as this is one of the gases that contribute to increasing the greenhouse effect. Therefore, INRETE DISTRIBUZIONE ENERGIA S.P.A. conducts periodic campaigns to identify leaks even more frequently than required by regulations, using cutting-edge instruments that can detect even minimal leaks from pipelines and pinpoint any initial signs of dangerous situations that may concern the site where pipelines are laid.


Heat pumps

In nature, heat flows from a body with a higher temperature to a body with a lower temperature. To draw an analogy with water, it is like water that moves from a higher pressure pipe to a lower pressure pipe. As takes place in hydraulics through electric pumps, it is possible to invert this flow with heat as well, therefore removing heat from a cold body and directing it towards a hotter body. This mechanism can work alongside the traditional heat production system (burning fuels in boilers), which results in losses in the transformation from chemical energy to thermal energy. Therefore, we can say that “it is easier to transfer heat than it is to produce it”.

To make this transfer, we use a refrigeration cycle, exploiting the principle based on which the expansion of a gas withdraws heat from the environment in which that expansion takes place (cold chamber), then transporting it to the back of the refrigerator. In the same manner, the cycle can be used to withdraw heat from rivers, lakes or the ground, transferring it to a closed environment to be heated in a very efficient manner.

To support the development of these technologies, AEEGSI has introduced a facilitated trial rate for residential heat pumps.

In terms of energy distribution services, HERA is researching the possibility of using heat pumps in district heating as well.

Heat pumps

Page updated 24 July 2019

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