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Gas storage

Snow, frozen ponds, or even just a hard wind – when it’s cold outside, most of us want to be inside, nice and warm. That means turning on the heating, all at the same time, and when that happens, the demand for gas is sure to outstrip the supply. To guarantee the supply of gas, there are a number of gas storage facilities in the Netherlands. Gasunie operates one of these as well: EnergyStock. This sort of storage facility can be seen as a sort of piggy bank filled with natural gas. By setting some extra gas aside, we can be sure we will always be able to meet the energy demand – even during cold snaps, or when there is no wind, or when the sun stays hidden all day.

Natural gas stored in salt caverns

Our natural gas is being stored in Zuidwending, in the northern province of Groningen. The company operating the gas storage facility is EnergyStock, a fully-owned subsidiary of Gasunie. EnergyStock is the only gas storage company in the Netherlands that stores natural gas in caverns found in subterranean salt deposits. We use five of these salt caverns, each more than a kilometre below the earth’s surface, for gas storage. Each cavern is 300 to 400 metres deep (enough to accommodate the Eiffel Tower) and 50 to 80 metres wide. The gas is injected into and extracted from the caverns using a gas plant situated on the ground above. A major advantage of storing gas in salt caverns is that it can be pumped up quickly for use during unexpected peaks in demand.

Gas storage is needed for sustainable energy too

During the energy transition (the move from natural gas to other sources of power) gas storage will become even more important. When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, there will still be a demand for energy. That is the time that we need to draw on our stored energy sources, which in the future will likely be a gas other than natural gas, like hydrogen for example. However, it will always remain difficult to generate just the right amount of energy to meet the demand at each moment. Stored energy is an essential buffer for when demand exceeds supply, and vice versa.

Storage tanks with liquefied natural gas

When the temperature really drops, Gasunie can also make use of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant located at the Maasvlakte site in the Port of Rotterdam. The LNG we store in the tanks of this ‘peak shaving’ facility can be converted back into its gaseous state and fed into our gas transport network for use in homes and businesses in the Randstad conurbation during peak demand periods. During cold snaps or when low temperatures are expected to hit, the peak shaver can be put on standby so that gas can be supplied quickly.