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Thursday, 23 February 2023, Forschen, Universität

Green Gas

Synthetic liquid methane should become a climate-neutral alternative to fossil fuels

The search for a carbon-neutral gas source is one of the most urgent concerns of our time. Researchers from six European countries and Canada are working on a new alternative: the production of synthetic liquid methane from biomass. The University of Graz is contributing solutions to legal issues and challenges of a socio-psychological nature. The EU project has a total budget of 3.5 million euros.

The idea is green through and through: biomass binds CO2 from the atmosphere. When biomass is gasified, this CO2 is released again and used to produce methane. Part of the hydrogen required is produced during gasification, the rest is generated by electrolysis of water from renewable electricity. For this, as for the entire process of biomass gasification and subsequent synthesis of methane, only renewable energy sources are used.

Therefore, the production of the carbon-neutral gas should take place in countries such as Iceland, Chile, Australia, and Canada, where there is a surplus of renewable energy being produced. Synthetic methane can then be easily and cheaply imported to Europe by tankers in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to supply the LNG terminals. It will be available primarily for shipping and heavy-duty transport as a green fuel. In addition, it can also replace fossil gas for power and heat generation and in the chemical industry.

Innovation needs law
To pave the way for a successful market launch, lawyers at the University of Graz are investigating the legal hurdles that still need to be overcome. "In order for green gas to actually live up to the claim of being climate-neutral, care must be taken, for example, to ensure that the use of biomass complies with EU directives. In the future, gasification of biomass will only be considered sustainable if the biomass cannot be used for the production of products and cannot be reused or recycled," explains Miriam Hofer from the research center for climate protection law at the University of Graz "ClimLaw:Graz". Waste from forest management, for example, fulfills this requirement.
Another problem is the methane emissions that are not entirely avoidable when transporting LNG. "Legal regulations are needed to keep them to a minimum. To ensure that the implementation of the planned new EU regulation has the best possible effect on climate protection, we lawyers are contributing our expertise together with the technicians," Hofer reports.

Psychology in demand
How do people feel about the use of climate-neutral liquefied petroleum gas? What psychological and social hurdles still need to be overcome for the innovation to be accepted? Researchers from the University of Graz in the field of social psychology are investigating the acceptance of CO2-neutral LNG. "Among other things, we are conducting interviews with vehicle and ship operators and asking consumers what they think about the use of synthetic liquid methane in the tourism industry and in delivery services," explain Katja Corcoran and Eva Hofmann. They are also conducting their research from a gender perspective. "We want to know to what extent the attitudes of women and men differ. The results should show where opportunities can be exploited and where prejudices still need to be countered," say the social psychologists. "If the use of green LPG is perceived positively by male and female consumers, this could further support the adoption of this green technology."

More information on the >> EU project "CarbonNeutralLNG."

The project is assigned to the two Fields of Excellence Climate Change Graz and Smart Regulation at the University of Graz.