The United Nations have approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and everyone is called to contribute to the achievement of its goals. Snam has chosen, in particular, to commit itself to goal 13, Climate action, with a challenging target: to reduce its natural gas emissions in 2021 by 10% with respect to its 2016 emissions. Snam has decided to do this as a strategy, moving along the decarbonization pathway and playing a more operative role, and thus contributing to the reduction of climate-altering emissions.
In 2015 the United Nations approved the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, whose essential elements are the 17 SDGs set with a view to putting an end to poverty, combating inequality and achieving social and economic development. A discussion that companies followed with great interest: some of these goals match Snam’s activities almost perfectly, in particular for what concerns climate action.
With regard to the latter point, the conclusion of the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP 22) held in Marrakech in 2016, confirmed the optimism aroused by the entry into effect of the Paris Agreement less than one year after its adoption. The drive towards decarbonization is already influencing the methods of production and use of energy, speeding up the shift towards “carbon neutrality” that the Paris Agreement sets as a goal to be reached during the second half of this century. The pathway identified requires efforts to be made and sustained by all sectors of society and the economy to ensure a form of development oriented towards the protection of the environment, social equity and economic sustainability.
Snam has decided to contribute to this extremely important SDGs both from the strategic point of view, by moving along the decarbonization pathway and thus considering it as an opportunity, and from the operational point of view, by strengthening its operational excellence and thus contributing to the reduction of climate-altering emissions.
Natural gas, like non-programmable renewable sources, has all the characteristics necessary to guarantee an efficient and effective decarbonization pathway. This is because gas is a versatile product that can be used as an energy source for household uses, for generating electricity, for industrial applications and as a fuel for road and sea transport. A greater use of gas, in its various forms, would result in lower emissions of sulphurous anhydride, nitrogen oxide and particulate, with a decisive impact in the fight against air pollution in cities, and would contribute to decrease the use of oil and its derivatives. Gas is an accessible source due to the presence of considerable reserves near Europe and a development of the world liquefied natural gas market, which has increased its availability at low prices.
The gas infrastructure system is widespread and flexible in responding to fluctuations in demand and supply. With limited investments, it can support the technologies that produce and use energy with a low or zero carbon content (gas powered heat pumps, biomethane, micro-cogeneration, turbo-expansion and power-to-gas).
The Company’s strategy is clear and strongly supported by its top management. But the fight against climate change is also tackled from the operational point of view through efficient and innovative management. In fact, Snam intends to develop projects for reducing emissions to fight climate change with a precise target in mind:
- to reduce its natural gas emissions in 2021 by 10% with respect to its 2016 emissions.
To pursue this target, it has elaborated an investment plan to implement projects that include various kinds of operations: recompression of gas in the transmission network and at the compression stations; replacement of natural gas-fired pneumatic actuators in the transport and storage infrastructure; innovation on the plants. The investments planned by the Company for the new technologies aimed at enhancing operational performance, such as the experimental studies undertaken on “real time leak detection”, are greater than 200 million euros of which about 160 million in Industry 4.0 initiatives. These technologies will contribute not only to the efficiency of the transmission system but also to the control and reduction of natural gas emissions.
This programme is in line with the Company’s commitment to combat climate change, which has always been strong: from 2009 to 2016, Snam reduced its natural gas emissions by 11%, its CO2 emissions from combustion by 21% and its direct CO2eq emissions by 16%.
Snam is contributing to the evolution of the “gas product” through the development of infrastructure to favour the use of compressed natural gas in the transport sector, the use of liquefied natural gas and biomethane.
The contribution of biomethane to the goals of decarbonisation is not limited to the energy consumption phase. The production process can make a contribution to significantly reduce emissions in the agricultural industry and restoring soil organic matter: the digestate (what remains after the anaerobic digestion of the agricultural matter) is actually an excellent natural fertiliser.
Snam, together with the Italian Biogas Consortium and Confagricoltura, it has elaborated and publicly presented a programme to support the Italian biomethane chain, addressed to the Government and the EU Commission and announced during the 2016 edition of Biogas Italy. In December 2016, the first Snam workshop entirely dedicated to biomethane was held in San Donato Milanese. The event, which attracted about a hundred people representing over 50 gas transmission system operators and associations, served to take stock of the situation in view of the injection of the initial flows of biomethane into the Snam network. Actually, although the legislative system is still evolving also due to the market facilitator role played by Snam, there have already been 350 enquiries of which 50 have become formal requests for connections to the network. Experts estimate that, by 2030, the production of biomethane will reach 8 billion cubic metres a year to cover more than 10% of consumption on a national level.
In the meantime, the first biomethane has been injected in the national pipeline network in June by Montello SpA, an Italian and EU leader in bio-waste recovery and recycle with an annual production at full capacity estimated at 32 million standard cubic metres, the equivalent of a quantity of biofuel for about 640 million kilometers traveled by “bio vehicles”. Montello’s plant, which recovers wet organic waste produced by 6 million of inhabitants (equal to 60% of the whole Lombardy region), does not produce emissions and is the first Italian “Carbon Negative” plant, recovering from generated biogas (composed by nearly 60% of methane and nearly 40% of CO2) 38,000 tons/year of liquid CO2, to be used for technic and alimentary sectors.
Snam will also contribute to an increase in use of methane in the automotive sector, by providing its experience in the field and investing about 150 million euros over the coming 5 years to favour the development of filling stations and a more balanced distribution of them across the country, and increasing their number by about 300 units. Snam’s commitment lies within the scope of its relationship of collaboration with FCA and IVECO, who intend to broaden their ranges of natural gas vehicles further and is sanctioned by a memorandum of understanding signed in October 2016. In addition, in December 2016, Snam and the Api Group signed a letter of intent to develop up to 150 new natural gas filling stations across the country at the IP points of sale of the Api Group.
This action could impact in a positive way on the environment and the people’s health: replacing two million traditionally-fuelled vehicles with natural gas vehicles could lead to a reduction – calculated on the total fleet of vehicles- of 4%CO, 10% NOx and 12%PM.
In conclusion an integrated approach to the climate change challenge could give multiple benefits, not only involving the climate action goal itself but also affecting other goals as the 7 and the 12 ensuring access to sustainable energy and promoting sustainable production patterns involving the supply chain.