The Groningen gas field at Slochteren is the largest in Europe, and together with many smaller fields it has provided the Netherlands with natural gas since 1959.
Groningen is also the natural gas hub for the Netherlands, with import and export pipelines. However, the energy transition means that natural gas as a fuel should be phased out, and that ultimately, biogas should replace fossil gas.
Imported natural gas usually has a higher caloric value than the standard Dutch gas from the Groningen field. Nitrogen is produced in a dedicated factory in Zuidbroek to ‘dilute’ the gas to the caloric value suitable for use in household appliances like cookers and central heating systems.
Natural gas can be used to provide basic chemicals like ethylene or propylene, or it can be cracked into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Alternatively, hydrogen produced by ‘power to gas’ systems – which use excess energy from wind and solar – is sometimes converted into methane. It would be more efficient to use this hydrogen directly as fuel. In many places in the region, the gas infrastructure already includes hydrogen pipes, so this could be realized when more hydrogen is produced from e.g. the new wind parks off the Northern coast.
In the future, all natural gas should be replaced by bio gas. Currently, the Suiker Unie sugar plant in Groningen ferments its biomass waste into gas, which is injected into the regional natural gas system. Suiker Unie is one of the largest bio gas producers in the region.
N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie operates the Dutch gas infrastructure, including nitrogen factories. GasTerra manages the trade in natural gas. Suiker Unie sugar factory has the capacity to produce 20 million cubic meters annually of green gas from biomass. Many companies in the Chemport region use natural gas for heating purposes, a few companies also use natural gas as feedstock for chemical processes. Natural gas for heating purposes can be exchanged for steam or electricity.