TotalEnergies and Belgian start-up Tree Energy Solutions (TES) have announced plans to collaborate on a synthetic natural gas plant to be built in the US. The plant will use ‘green’ hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce a methane-like gas which can be burnt as fuel.
The project is expected to produce 100,000 to 200,000 metric tonnes of synthetic natural gas (e-NG) per year. The project is awaiting a final investment decision due to take place in 2024.
“This synthetic fuel will contribute to the energy transition by helping our customers to decarbonize their activities, notably the ones that are difficult to electrify,” said Stéphane Michel, president of gas, renewables and power at TotalEnergies in a press release.
“This product presents two significant advantages,” he continued. “First, it does not require new logistical infrastructure since e-NG and natural gas have the same properties and can therefore be mixed in existing infrastructures. Second, our customers will not have to change their current industrial processes.”
The developers plan to produce the green hydrogen with a 1GW electrolyser powered by 2GW of wind and solar energy. TotalEnergies will secure the renewable energy through long-term power purchase agreements.
TES says the carbon dioxide used at the plant will be biogenic, meaning that it will be come from organic material, rather than being fossil-based. However, the developers have not yet given indication of where it will be sourced from nor how it will be captured.
The European companies will build the plant in the US, most likely in Texas. According to Marco Alverà, CEO of TES, the project “testifies to the effectiveness of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States”.
The Biden Administration’s IRA offers tax incentives for domestic clean energy projects. The bill has, however, sparked tension between the EU and US amid concern that the incentives will draw clean energy investments away from the EU.
Similar synthetic gas projects are underway elsewhere; last year, Tokyo Gas piloted a small-scale project in Japan and French utility Engie injected synthetic gas into the French gas distribution network.
Critics argue that focusing investment on synthetic fuels risks prolonging our dependence on natural gas.