Trends & developments

Gasunie has an important social role in the energy supply to its core markets of the Netherlands and Germany. Providing reliable, affordable and sustainable transport of natural gas and other energy carriers is the most important value that we create for our stakeholders. In order to fulfil this role as well as possible, we must be alert and respond decisively to the developments inside and outside of our sector. We follow these developments closely, analysing the impact they have on our strategy and organisation and what impact we have on them ourselves.

The two most important developments for us in the coming years are:

  • Shifting gas flows: a decline in the production of Groningen gas, decreasing demand for natural gas in the Netherlands and reasonably stable European demand for gas.
  • Energy transition and the role played by gas and gas infrastructure.

Inextricably connected with this is the way in which we develop our organisation and employees to continue to perform our (new) role well.

Shifting gas flows

Following the earthquake near Zeerijp on 8 January 2018, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate decided to look into how and when gas extraction from the Groningen gas field could be scaled back to 12 billion cubic metres per year. This reduction in gas production can only be achieved with the introduction of drastic measures for both the short and medium term in the areas of equipment conversion and quality conversion, combined with the use of renewable energy sources. We are doing our utmost to help achieve this.

The decrease in the production of Groningen gas will cause a decline in the export of this low-calorific gas to Germany, Belgium and France from 2020 onwards. The demand for transport capacity in our network will also decrease as a result. We want to continue to utilise our infrastructure well and keep the rates for our customers as competitive as possible. That is why we are looking at options for attracting new gas flows, on the one hand, and at ways of minimising our costs while retaining our licence to operate, on the other.

At European level, demand is expected to remain reasonably stable in the years to come. While the movement to phase out natural gas has started in the Netherlands, especially in the built environment, we see that there are growth markets for natural gas in other parts of Europe. In these regions, natural gas is a means of phasing out the use of other fossil fuels such as oil and coal, and therefore for achieving CO2 reductions.

As far as new gas flows are concerned, we are working on further integration of the north-western European gas market and reinforcing TTF as the most liquid European gas hub. In terms of the construction of new infrastructure, we see a shift eastwards. Examples of this include our participation in the EUGAL pipeline in eastern Germany and plans for the construction of an LNG terminal near Hamburg. We are also working to expand the feed-in options for green gas in the Netherlands. With these efforts, we support the trend towards producing more green gas. Our gas transport network is suitable for feeding in large quantities of green gas. To facilitate this, we are mainly looking at how we can make connecting producers to the grid as accessible as possible.

By increasingly using a risk-based approach to examine the costs that we incur to maintain our infrastructure, we are able to reduce these costs. The starting point is always to maintain the safety and reliability of our infrastructure at the desired level. One effect of this approach is that we have moved away from preventive asset replacement towards more of a focus on corrective maintenance, which has allowed us to curtail the investment programme. The decrease in the transport of low-calorific gas flows also means that we need fewer assets in order to satisfy market demand. That has consequences for the use of compressor stations, in particular. We will soon be able to decommission a few of these stations.

Energy transition

The trend towards the use of more sustainable energy has been broadly accepted throughout society. It is clear that we will need both electrons (power) and molecules (gas) in the energy supply of the future. Gaseous energy carriers continue to be necessary for use in various industrial processes and to some extent for heating purposes in the built environment. We observe that in the debate on this, energy infrastructure is increasingly being given a key role as a crucial part of the solution. For us, this means that we want to develop from a company that operates a natural gas infrastructure into a company for sustainable energy infrastructure.

We participate in projects focused on the development of green gas, hydrogen, LNG and heat grids. The new coalition agreement focuses on CO2 capture, transport and storage (CCTS), activities to which we can contribute significantly, given our knowledge and experience.

In order to help accelerate the energy transition, we are also currently participating in various projects focused on new activities, some of which are small in scale. This enables us to develop innovative technologies and amass knowledge and experience. Examples of these include supercritical water gasification and hybrid heat pump projects.

The increase in the diversity and complexity of energy flows will prompt us to operate with other partners even more frequently and intensively. This cooperation is logical, but not always obvious, which is why we proactively engage in dialogue with stakeholders inside and outside of our traditional chain. We also notice that aiming for realistic solutions that contribute to efficiently and effectively achieving the climate goals is increasingly a shared principle.

Developments in the labour market and a sustainable HR and employment conditions policy

The world in which we live and work is changing rapidly. With regard to the labour market, we can distinguish three general trends that are relevant to us:

  • The labour market is still tight when it comes to technically trained employees.
  • From 1 January 2018, the standard retirement age will be increased once again, this time to 68 years. This places different demands on employees and on our workforce planning.
  • Increasing robotisation and digitalisation require different competencies from employees and will replace work by humans to a growing extent.

To respond to these changes, our organisation needs to become more flexible and agile. These developments require an HR policy that focuses on the sustainable employability of employees. Employees will need to continuously develop themselves, including in new areas. Making our employees future-proof therefore requires that employees be able to develop in response to changing, new or different work, at our company or elsewhere.

Fit for purpose

All the developments and activities outlined above can only be successfully implemented if our organisation is equipped accordingly. We want to be able to respond decisively to changes in the communities in which we operate. That means that we must manage both the contraction of some of our existing activities and the growth of new activities and build a high degree of flexibility into the way in which we organise our work. In doing so, we encourage our employees to develop their own initiatives that contribute to this.

Together with our employees, the Works Council and the trade unions, we have jointly developed a programme to promote the sustainable employability of all employees. The essence here is to give employees the latitude to take charge and expand their competencies with new knowledge and experiences that tie in with the developments inside and outside of Gasunie. The programme also includes various elements focused on vitality, an important condition for being able to continue working productively with the right level of energy.