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General Information about Natural Gas

Natural Gas is the friendliest of all fossil energy sources to the environment. Its combustion primarily creates steam and very low amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Natural Gas is a primary energy. This means that the energy from the natural product can be immediately used without conversion.

Natural gas - developed over millions of years from the remains of plants and animals

The formation of oil and natural gas began millions of years ago. At this time large parts of today's landmass was covered by ocean.

  • The prerequisite for the formation were ocean basins without water circulation that exhibited a development of vast amounts of animal and plant based plankton. After dying, the organisms that developed within slowly sank to the seafloor; they then began to rot and oxygen contained in the water was quickly exhausted. Further organic material that sank, including large amounts of dead land plants, reached these oxygen free deep zones. Due to the oxygen deficit, the rotting process stopped and the non- or partially decomposed organic material (protein, and fat) collected on the floor with simultaneously sinking fine clay particles. This mixture of organism residue and clay is referred to as organic slime.
  • Over the course of millions of years further deposits including layers of sand and clay pressed the organic slime further into the depths. Pressure and temperature increased in the process. At a temperature of 50°C, so-called kerogen - the initial material that subsequently changed into oil and natural gas - was formed due to the biochemical process. The fine-grained rock that emerged, which contained sufficient organic material for the formation of hydrocarbon, is referred to as parent rock.
  • The pressure and temperature continued to rise due to further sinking and the formation of mountains. At a depth of around 2,000 m and at temperatures of over 70°C, primarily oil began to form.
  • Greater depths and temperatures of over approximately 200°C provided adequate conditions for the formation of natural gas. Due to the increase in volume caused by the kerogen converting into oil and natural gas and pressure from the upper rock formations, the hydrocarbon was pressed out of the malleable clay. The hydrocarbon's low specific weight resulted in it floating towards the surface. This was then captured in the microscopic pores of sandstone. One refers to this process as migration.
  • Oil and gas was now versatile; it separated and collected, for example, under a layer of impermeable rock such as clay, of which the pores were too tight to allow the substances to rise further. A deposit was created.
  • Uppermost under the impermeable layer can be found the natural gas, which forms a gas cap; oil is below the gas and under the oil is the salt water of the ancient oceans. The processes referred to are ongoing and still occur today at varying speed and intensity. The Black Sea, which is cut off from ocean currents by the Bosporus, is an example of this.
  • Natural Gas is the friendliest of all fossil energy sources to the environment. Its combustion primarily creates steam and very small amounts of carbon dioxide.
  • Natural Gas is a primary energy. This means that the energy from the natural product can be immediately used without conversion.
  • Natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbon compounds. After separation of possible quantities of higher hydrocarbons such as propane and butane (= liquid gas), it is made up of approximately 97 % methane. Due to its purity, this is used as a raw material in the chemical industry for the production of the most varied of products.

Alongside its classic applications such as for cooking, heating, and warming water, natural gas also provide energy for cooling and generating electricity.

Natural gas is an important commodity to industry and is used in the production of plant nutrients (fertilizer) and melanin.

Furthermore, natural gas is increasingly being used in power stations (combined heat and power). In respect of fuel cell technology, natural gas is opening new avenues. In fuel cells, via the production of hydrogen, natural gas is used in the production of electricity. Fuel cell technology can be used both in a stationary capacity in compact power stations and portably in vehicles. Testing plants have already been established. Vehicle manufacturers have also recognized the advantages of natural gas as a fuel (CNG = Compressed Natural Gas) and now offer vehicles equipped accordingly.

Natural gas hub of Europe
In Baumgarten (Lower Austria), one of the most important natural gas hubs of Europe, primarily Russian natural gas but also Norwegian natural gas as well as gas from other countries is supplied and further transported over several pipelines in various directions with a total length of approximately 2,000 kilometres to centres of consumption in Austria and other European countries. This pipeline intersection consists of four stations, to which natural gas is delivered, measured, inspected and compressed for further transportation.

From Baumgarten the Trans-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (TAG) runs southerly, West-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (WAG) runs westerly and the Hungaria-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (HAG) as well as the Kittsee-Petrzalka-Gas-Pipeline (KIP) run in a south-easterly direction. The Penta-West-Gas-Pipeline (PW) and the Southeast-Pipeline (SOL) complete the transit pipeline network of GasConnect Austria GmbH. In order to optimally manage the transit gas flow for our customers, this modern transit pipeline consists of a system of branch and transfer stations.

The Trans-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (TAG) and the Southeast-Pipeline supply Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. The Hungaria-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (HAG) in the east supplies Hungary, the Kittsee-Petrzalka-Gas-Pipeline (KIP) supplies Slovakia. The West-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (WAG) and the Penta-West Gas-Pipeline (PW) transmit natural gas to Germany and France and from West to East to Central Europe via Austria.

Besides their usage for the purpose of supplying the neighbouring countries the Trans-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (TAG) as well as the West-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (WAG) are also used to supply the Austrian domestic market.

Natural gas with a volume of approximately 57 billion Nm³ is transported through these pipelines each year. GasConnect Austria GmbH operates one of the most modern dispatching centres in Europe to cope with this remarkable transit volume. The dispatching centre maintains ongoing contact with other dispatching centres in Milan, Essen, Berlin, Kassel, Paris, Moscow, Nitra and Stavanger.

GasConnect Austria GmbH is both the marketing TSO of primary capacity and the Operator of the Hungaria-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (HAG), the Kittsee-Petrzalka-Gas-Pipeline (KIP), the Southeast-Pipeline (SOL) and the Penta-West Gas-Pipeline (PW).

As far as the Trans-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (TAG) and the West-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (WAG) are concerned GasConnect Austria GmbH is the Operator for both pipelines, whilst the marketing for primary capacity on these pipelines is carried out by other companies namely by TAG GmbH for the Trans-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (TAG) and by BOG GmbH for the West-Austria-Gas-Pipeline (WAG) is.

For further information please refer to the respective websites (www.taggmbh.at; www.bog-gmbh.at).

Natural gas is transported through underground and undersea pipelines and in vessels.

European gas utility companies have started implementing long-term investment plans for the extension and enlargement of their pipeline networks in order to ensure secured supplies to meet the continuously increasing natural gas demand. Today both industries and final customers in Europe may avail themselves of the convenience of a modern and dense gas grid, a transportation system that is continuously being extended and renewed.

Natural gas is largely transported through subterranean gas pipelines with diameters varying from 200 to 1,400 mm at pressures of up to 84 bar gauge. The average flow rate of natural gas is 8 m/sec (or 28 km/h); from production fields in Russia it therefore takes about six days for the natural gas to arrive at the Baumgarten interconnection point in Austria. Being a pipeline-bound form of energy, the natural gas that arrives at Baumgarten is either transported on or stored. GasConnect Austria GmbH operates a Dispatching Center to ensure the safe and reliable management of that complex and responsible controlling task (for more information, see 'Dispatching 24 hours a day').

Pipeline transportation is effected without burdening our environment and independent of ruling weather conditions at a safety record unmatched by surface modes of transportation.
Natural gas must be compressed for transportation at a higher pressure. In compressor stations a turbine, like an aircraft turbine, generates the energy required to power a compressor which increases the natural gas pressure to up to 84 bar gauge. Natural gas may also be transported in vessels. However, only a small fraction of global demand is transported using specially designed vessels. The natural gas must be conducted to a port of shipment, where it is liquefied to LNG (liquefied natural gas) at a temperature of -162°C. At the port of destination, LNG is regasified and transported through pipelines to final consumers.

Dispatching 24 hours per day
Centralized precise control and controlled dispatching of natural gas.

Dispatchers ensure that customers, at home and abroad, receive their natural gas at the correct time and of the quantity ordered, at the correct pressure and in particular also the desired quality.

The transit pipelines of GasConnect Austria GmbH transit a volume of almost 57 billion m³ yearly, i.e. from one Austrian border station to another border station without withdrawal of quantities for the local demand. The continuous flow of natural gas that arrives at the Baumgarten Hub is directly transited to destinations in Germany, Italy, Slovenia, or Hungary. The transportation of natural gas is pipeline-dependent. Uninterrupted flows of natural gas constitute an indispensable requirement for the safe and reliable functioning of the Baumgarten Hub and the GasConnect Austria GmbH pipeline system as such.

GasConnect Austria GmbH operates a Dispatching Center with state-of-the-art technical equipment to handle the enormous transportation quantities under the transportation contracts in operative terms. This GasConnect Austria GmbH control center counts among the most advanced of its type in Europe and is partly online 24 hours a day with other dispatching centers, including in Milan, Essen, Kassel, Paris, Moscow, Nitra and Stavanger. The Dispatching Center coordinates the flow of natural gas to Austria (upstream networks) as well as through Austria and then from Austria away (to downstream networks). The main task is controlling and metering of natural gas quantities in the GasConnect Austria GmbH pipeline system and coordination with networks of other pipelines operators, including exchange of data.

All technical pipeline facilities throughout Austria can be controlled centrally and in real time at the push of a button at the Vienna Dispatching Center. Within very short it is, for instance, possible to open or close a control valve in Upper Austria or to control the performance of all GasConnect Austria GmbH compressor stations. Performed by GasConnect Austria GmbH at regular intervals, labor and cost-intensive tests and maintenance work constitute indispensable requirements for the quick and reliable control of the entire pipeline network (for further information see 'Safe transportation network').

Natural gas pipelines are continuously checked and maintained.

Maintenance centres are located area-wide along the long-distance pipeline system of GasConnect Austria GmbH which are adequately staffed to have the required know-how for precision work on the sensitive high-tech facilities. Maintenance centers are also equipped with all special tools, devices, machinery, and spare parts as required for the labor and cost-intensive maintenance of pipelines and facilities and for checking the pipeline routes.

As the entire pipeline system is controlled fully automatically, stand-by service staff is available 24 hours a day for security reasons and to ensure that, in case of need, the required manual intervention can be effected on location and within short notice. 

At regular intervals, the pipeline routes are checked by helicopter from the air and once a year physically inspected on ground.

Both at the beginning and at the end of each pipeline section there are pig launchers/receivers at which pigs are launched into the pipeline sections. Pigs consist of groups of discs around an axis and are carefully adjusted to the inner diameter of the pipeline tubes. After having been launched at one end, pigs move along the section on account of the gas pressure and transport the liquid to the next pig station. Cleaning pigs are used to remove liquids and dirt from the pipelines, while intelligent pigs, equipped with highly sensitive electrodes, check the interior surface of the pipeline for, and record, minute cracks and damage. These records are then used to minimize the length of the section that needs to be repaired and to optimize excavation work. Although their use is extremely costly, pigs are launched at regular intervals.

Supply on Demand

Steady production and unsteady demand makes storage necessary: Natural gas is required at various times in differing amounts. Not only is up to six times more natural gas used in the winter than in the summer, individual weeks are also subject to a certain rhythm of consumption. Requirement even varies from hour to hour during the course of a day. In order to cope with this constant fluctuation, natural gas production companies and gas supply companies have to store natural gas.

Underground Storage

Depleted gas caverns provide ideal and natural storage facilities. Natural gas is stored in the pores of natural gas storages, in which natural gas has already been situated for millions of years. At depths of 500 to 1,500 meters and with a pressure of up to 120 bars, approximately 2.23 billion m³ (~25,2 TWh) of natural gas can be stored in the natural gas storages of Tallesbrunn and Schönkirchen-Reyersdorf.
This equates to almost a fourth of Austria's annual requirement.

Further information is available under the following link.