Gasunie brings Zuidwending natural gas buffer into operation

Groningen | press release

Gas infrastructure company Gasunie has brought its underground gas storage facility at Zuidwending near Veendam into operation. This natural gas buffer holds flexible gas stocks in salt caverns deep underground, catering for short-term differences between supply and demand. Gasunie Zuidwending has had a good start, as market parties started to make full use of it immediately after it came into operation. With this new gas storage facility, the Netherlands has strengthened its position as "gas roundabout" for north-west Europe and customers can remain assured of a safe and constant supply of natural gas. That is important because natural gas will continue to make up an important component of the sustainable energy mix in the future.

First Dutch natural gas storage in salt caverns
According to Gasunie CEO Paul van Gelder this is a unique achievement: "The Zuidwending natural gas buffer is the first gas storage facility opened in the Netherlands in over 10 years and is actually the first in the Netherlands where natural gas is stored in salt layers. We are extremely proud of this. New investments like these are necessary to maintain security of supply and to strengthen the position of the Netherlands as a European gas roundabout.”

Flexible buffer
The new Zuidwending natural gas buffer is specially designed to allow flexible response to sudden changes in demand for natural gas. That is necessary because pressure in the Groningen gas field is gradually falling. The major advantage of storage in salt caverns is that it allows natural gas to be delivered quickly to cater for times of peak demand. This facilitates rapid response to fluctuations in energy demand during the day, while the inflow of gas from other fields in the Netherlands, Norway and Russia remains constant. It also supports the necessary flexibility required for the use of sustainable energy, such as wind and solar power, because it can cater for the inconstant patterns of supply from those sustainable energy sources.

Caverns as high as the Eiffel Tower
In setting up the facility, Gasunie worked with its partner Akzo Nobel, which leached out the salt caverns. The natural gas buffer consists of a gas plant and four caverns at a depth of between 1,000 and 1,500 metres. The caverns are around 300m high and 50 to 60m across. Each cavern is as high as the Eiffel Tower. The natural gas is stored at a pressure of 180 bars. Each cavern can supply the market with over 50 million m3 natural gas (working gas volume). Up to 1.6 million m3 gas per hour can be produced from the four caverns and up to 0.8 million m3 per hour can be injected. The construction of the fifth cavern is well underway. This cavern will be one-and-a-half times as big as the largest of the four caverns we have now and it will come into operation in 2013. The gas storage facility involved an investment of over €500 million and 2.3 million man-hours. During construction Gasunie invested considerable effort in communication with local residents. Residents and local authorities were closely involved in the project from the beginning of planning in 2003.

The Zuidwending natural gas buffer will be officially opened on 27 January 2011. There will be a special celebratory programme for local residents on 29 January.

About Gasunie
Gasunie is a European gas infrastructure company. The Gasunie network is among the largest high pressure gas pipeline grids in Europe, consisting of over 15,000 kilometres of pipeline in the Netherlands and northern Germany, dozens of installations and approximately 1,300 gas receiving stations. The annual gas throughput totals approximately 125 billion cubic metres. We serve the public interest in the markets in which we are active and work to create optimum value for our stakeholders. We are the first independent gas transport provider with a cross-border network in Europe. Gasunie offers transport services via its subsidiaries Gas Transport Services B.V. (GTS) in the Netherlands and Gasunie Deutschland Transport Services GmbH in Germany.
We also offer other services in the gas infrastructure field, including gas storage and LNG. We consider the wishes of our customers to be of prime importance. We aim for the highest standards in safety, reliability, efficiency and sustainability. Due to the reliability and strategic location of the Gasunie network in relation to expanding international gas flows, the Gasunie network forms the core of what is called the northwest European 'gas roundabout'.

About Gasunie Zuidwending B.V.
Gasunie Zuidwending B.V. is the owner and operator of the underground storage facility at Zuidwending. The company is a 100% owned subsidiary of Gasunie and it provide services to third parties, to enable them to respond quickly and flexibly to temporary differences between supply and demand for natural gas. Gasunie is responsible for the management and maintenance of the installation.

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