Brussels Mulls Excluding Gas from PCI List
The European Commission (EC) has proposed excluding oil and natural gas infrastructure from its list of projects of common interest (PCIs) that enjoy EU financial and regulatory support, it reported on December 15.
The EU executive called for changes to the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) regulation that would prevent oil and gas projects from receiving PCI status, which gives them access to grants from the EU's Connecting Europe Facility. Continued support for hydrocarbons is incompatible with climate goals set as part of the bloc's Green Deal, the EC said. Gas demand in Europe is also set to decline significantly during the energy transition, it argued, and therefore does not need further support.
"The current TEN-E framework has been fundamental in creating a true single energy market, making it better integrated, more competitive and secure. But our ambitious climate targets demand a stronger focus on sustainability and new clean technologies," energy commissioner Kadri Simson said in a statement. "This is why our proposal prioritises electricity grids, offshore energy and renewable gases, while oil and natural gas infrastructure will no longer be eligible for support."
Funding will be available for infrastructure projects that transport hydrogen, including when it has been produced from natural gas. This so-called blue hydrogen is decarbonised, thanks to the use of carbon capture and storage.
The current PCI list includes some five LNG import terminals, gas storage facilities and a number of major pipeline projects, including the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline in southern Europe, the EastMed pipeline that would link Israel with Greece and the Baltic Pipe that will pump Norwegian gas to Poland. But the EC's latest proposals for inclusions in October were mostly focused on electricity and CO2 transport and featured only one gas project: a pipeline linking Bulgaria with Serbia.
Industry group Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) stressed the important role gas infrastructure could serve in transporting hydrogen and other green molecules over long distances with relatively little extra investment. Underground gas storage facilities can be used to store renewable and low-carbon energy, including hydrogen, and liquid hydrogen can be imported through LNG regasification terminals, it said.
"To deliver the ultimate decarbonisation goal, a future-proof solution is needed. And the gas infrastructure remains a pillar component of such an action plan," GIE's secretary general Boyana Achovski commented. "Today, we are already teaming up with the wind and solar power generation. By doing so, we will massively contribute to accelerating the deployment of renewable hydrogen in the soon future thanks to our technical capacities and ability to innovate."