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Natural Gas: Safe supply, secure heat

Anyone with a gas heating today is well off: There’s practically no more easier way of heating your four walls. No need to think about the best time to order, no comparing suppliers, no storage. Natural gas is delivered to homes just as simply and reliably as tap water or electricity. To make this happen – and ensure it remains so – OMV employs a proactive approach along the entire value chain.

Natural gas is a given for most of us. We use it for heating, cooking, or also for driving. Austria, for example, uses around 8.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas in an average year. “When we turn on the heating at home, the gas already has a long journey behind it”, says Michael Woltran. He is responsible for gas logistics at OMV and is familiar with the multiple steps needed for the gas to get from its source to our homes.

OMV has been securing Europe’s gas supply for 60 years, meeting the needs of its customers day in, day out, and ensuring seamless provision. As gas consumption constantly fluctuates, and yet the gas still has to be available around the clock, close cooperation between the transport and storage logistics teams plays a decisive role in security of supply.

Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel and, what’s more, it’s a readily available and affordable energy source. Demand will continue to grow, not least as natural gas is the ideal partner for renewables.

Where does the natural gas originate?

It all starts with production. In 2016 OMV’s global gas production was around 9 billion cubic meters. The majority of this was produced in Europe, with OMV extracting it in Romania, Norway and Austria. But the fact is that production in Europe is declining at the same time as demand is growing. A good reason to secure a stake in Yuzhno Russkoye, one of the largest gas fields in Russia.

In addition to equity production, OMV buys natural gas via long-term gas supply agreements. A small percentage comes from Norway, with the lion’s share from Russia. Every year OMV gets around 5-6 billion cubic meters from Russian Gazprom. In 1968 Austria was the first country in western Europe to conclude gas import agreements with former Sovjet Union, and thus Gazprom and OMV will celebrate the 50-years-anniversary of its partnership in June this year.

Gas logistics on a European scale

The Russian gas comes to Europe by pipeline. It travels at speeds of around 28 km/h and takes five to six days to get from the Siberian gas fields to households. Before reaching our homes, it goes through the Baumgarten compressor station. This is where the natural gas is received, measured, tested and compressed for subsequent transport, before being sent on its way to Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia. Some 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas flows through Baumgarten every year, making it one of the largest import and transfer stations and a critical component of European gas logistics.

In future Baumgarten may become even more important, because while natural gas production in Europe is declining, demand is growing. Europe will have to import new amounts of natural gas in order to meet this burgeoning demand. The world’s largest reserves are in Russia and could be even more well connected to Europe and thereby also to Baumgarten via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. That’s also the reason for OMV’s involvement in the project.

Security of supply: An exemplary track record

In addition to Baumgarten and a 900-kilometer pipeline network, OMV’s natural gas logistics include gas storage facilities. These play a key role in security of supply. Even if a gas supplier were to drop out or part of the pipeline network were to go down temporarily, OMV can make up the difference with its storage facilities. “Our gas storage has a capacity of some 2.7 billion cubic meters. That’s enough to supply two-and-a-half million households for a full year”, estimates Woltran.

Natural gas set to become even more important

So, a lot of effort is expended, but why does OMV have such a strong focus on natural gas? Woltran offers a single answer: Natural gas has a promising future. Various studies predict that it will become Europe’s most important primary energy source in the next 20 years. Demand will continue to grow, as natural gas is a readily available and affordable energy source. It is responsible for a mere half as many CO2 emissions as coal, making it the cleanest fossil fuel – just one reason why it is an ideal partner for renewables.

Natural gas can balance out peaks in demand when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. It can also be stored even today at economically attractive conditions. “Natural gas allows flexible applications, particularly in combination with alternative energy sources and new technologies”, explains Woltran. As an example, OMV is working with partners to research how to produce biogas from organic waste long-term. In addition, Power-2-Gas, i.e. “storing” renewable energy in the form of synthetic gas, can play an important part in meeting climate goals. And there are other benefits too: For example we can use our existing infrastructure – without any additional investment – for feeding in, transporting and storing synthetic gas or biogas”, says Woltran, laying out a vision for the future of energy.

As you can see, gas is and will remain important. “People already heating with natural gas are in an ideal position”, concludes Woltran: “Today you can relish a comfortable, secure and financially attractive supply of energy. And at the same time, you are well prepared for a future of biogas or synthetic gas”.

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