About 140 researchers from Brazil and from England are gathering to discuss RD&I projects to be jointly worked on to increase the participation of natural gas in the world energy matrix.

Experts in energy and in natural gas are meeting in São Paulo, on the 27 and 28 of September, for the Sustainable Gas Research Innovation 2016. It is a meeting congregating researchers from the Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI), from the Imperial College London, and from the Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) – a centre of excellence established at Escola Politécnica (Engineering School) of the University of São Paulo (Poli-USP) supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp) and by the BG group/SHELL.

The aim is to discuss research, development and innovation (RD&I) projects that may be jointly worked on to increase the weight of natural gas in the world energy matrix, with new technologies and applications, along with low greenhouse gases emissions. Also to be discussed is the future of hydrogen obtained from natural gas as fuel, besides carbon sequestration. “At the conference, each institution will present their ongoing projects, so that researchers learn about them and may contribute with suggestions, partnerships and scientific contributions of any nature,” explains the coordinator of RCGI, Professor Julio Meneghini, from Poli-USP.

The meeting will count on the participation of about 140 researchers, from Brazil and from other countries. A 26-member delegation is coming from the United Kingdom, among whom Professor Nigel Brandon, Director of SGI and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Engineering of the Imperial College London. He in one of the major world experts in fuel cells – devices which electrochemically convert hydrogen into electricity, without undergoing carbon cycles.

The BG Group/SHELL will be represented by its General Manager for Gas Separation, Rob Littel, one of the keynote speakers of the event along with Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, Fapesp Scientific Director. Littel accounts for developing a technology for removing H2S (hydrogen sulphide), CO2 and other contaminants from natural gas and for capturing, using and storing CO2. Also invited are public administrators, representatives of the government and of research institutions, as well as of companies in the oil and gas area.

Strategic mission – According to Meneghini, the role of RCGI and of SGI is strategic. They were both created to act as hubs dedicated to the natural gas issue and to work jointly. “They are cutting-edge researches that will provide relevant innovations, such as promoting the fuel of the future, hydrogen, since the cheapest way to obtain hydrogen is from natural gas,” he states.

In Brazil, the relevance of these researches can be measured by the increase in the participation of natural gas in the energy matrix which was 30% in the last six years. The upward trend also applies to the gross Brazilian production which, in May this year, was 99.8 million m³/day – a 7.2% increase as compared to the same period last year.

“A large share of the natural gas produced in Brazil is currently reinjected underground, including that deriving from the pre-salt layer,” adds Meneghini. For an idea, in January 2016, Brazil reinjected 30.4 million m³/day underground (out of the 97.25 million m³/day produced), while importing 31.7 million m³/day from Bolivia. “We have to work on new technologies and in innovation to make use of our potential, which is immense,” he highlights.

Natural gas emits about half of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), as compared to other fossil fuels. For being the third largest source of primary energy in the world, only outperformed by oil and coal, it is considered a fuel of transition for cleaner energy matrix.

Nigel Brandon, from SGI, stresses the importance of further scientific investigation to fully understand the role of natural gas in the global energy scenario and its interaction with other sources of energy. “Natural gas may provide a relevant contribution to the transition of energy, while renewable energies are maturing, solving issues such as intermittence, for example.”

The goal of both centres is to hold five annual conferences. “Our ambition is to establish the foundations to grow at a larger scale, conducting global conferences that inspire new and relevant researches,” closes Brandon.