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Energy security, distribution and markets

The JRC aims to provide a solid and comprehensive understanding of energy security in support of EU policy, notably in relation to fossil fuels (mainly gas and oil) and power systems.

A modern energy infrastructure is crucial for an integrated energy market and to enable the EU to meet its broader climate and energy goals. Europe must modernise and expand its energy network to absorb energy from renewable sources and secure supplies everywhere. This requires considerable investment in the existing gas and electricity networks, with rapid development of their interconnections. Indeed, security of supply, competitiveness or sustainability goals will never be met without resilient, reliable and smart energy networks.

The JRC aims to provide a solid and comprehensive understanding of energy security in support of EU policy, notably in relation to fossil fuels (mainly gas and oil) and power systems. The JRC assesses how different policy options help shape an energy system resilient to shocks and adverse trends whilst satisfying society’s energy needs.

Smart Electricity Systems and Interoperability

Europe needs to invest in the modernisation of its energy infrastructure. Systems have to be upgraded and reshaped to foster sustainability, increase energy efficiency and enhance grid security. As the EU power grid is one of the largest and most complex systems in the world, this is a major technological, financial, societal and regulatory challenge.

The JRC is an international reference point on digital power grid research and innovation, as it monitors the developments, operates a smart grid interoperability lab, analyses the technological, social and economic factors involved and contributes to disseminate information on smarter electricity systems. It's active on simulating the operation of the power system and the functioning of European electricity markets.

More information: JRC's Smart Electricity Systems and Interoperability Website

Security of Gas Supply

Given the importance of hydrocarbons in the EU's energy mix, the strong dependence on foreign supplies, and the geopolitical uncertainty in many producer regions, especially in the case of natural gas, it is vital to analyse the infrastructural requirements for guaranteeing the satisfaction of the European needs. In this context, the JRC develops and implements models to study the EU gas transmission system and to perform techno-economic analyses of energy security. The JRC has also developed methodology over the years to perform Risk Assessments of gas systems. These models and methods enable the identification and analysis of potential crises affecting the gas infrastructure and markets. The JRC also supports Member States developing preventive action plans to avoid these crises and setting up emergency preparedness scenarios in case there is an infrastructure or market disruption.

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Most of the gas consumed in the EU is imported from other countries, which demands the use of a complex Gas Transmission Network in order to make gas accessible to different consumers. Key components in the EU gas transmission network are pipelines, Production Sites, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, Compressor Stations (CS) and Underground Storage (UGS) facilities, among others. All its components are subject to different hazards and threats of different sources which may seriously jeopardise the access of EU consumers to gas. The most rigorous way to study the potential effect of different disruption scenarios on the EU gas transmission network and its resilience is by means of models. These models must be able to simulate the network behaviour reasonably well under normal conditions and under gas disruptions and crises.

The JRC has three models to simulate gas crises: GEMFLOW, ProGasNet and EUGas. GEMFLOW is a mass balance model where each EU Member State is represented as a node. ProGasNet is a mass balance model with a granularity at the level of facility that includes Monte Carlo capabilities to generate facility random failures. EUGas is a hydraulic model at the level of facilities (pipeline, LNG, CS, UGS, etc..) that include the entire EU gas transmission network. Typically EUGas is run at regional level (set of neighbouring MS). The three models allow the simulation of gas crises. The JRC’s ongoing activities comprise the addition of new capabilities to the three models, including the possibility of simulating the interaction gas-electricity.

On 25 October 2017, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted Regulation 2017/1938 repealing Regulation 994/2010 on security of gas supply. The Regulation aims at safeguarding the security of gas supply by ensuring the proper and continuous functioning of the internal natural gas market, by allowing exceptional measures when the market is not able to meet the gas needs of the EU and by establishing the responsibilities among the different stakeholders involved.

The key elements in Regulation 2017/1938 are the Risk Assessment, together with the Standards (Infrastructure Standard and Supply Standard) and the plans (Preventive Action Plan - PAP - and Emergency Plan - EP), - Risk Assessments have to be developed both at national and at regional level. Plans have to be developed at national level and contain regional chapters. The purpose of the Risk Assessment is to identify the set of scenarios that contribute most to risks of the gas system. The Standards aim at ensuring the supply of gas under specified system stress conditions (failure of largest infrastructure under severe weather conditions, among others). The goal of the PAP is to decrease the risk by different means. Finally, the Emergency Plan has to be designed in such a manner that the effects of gas crises are mitigated as much as possible should they occur.

The JRC is supporting the Directorate-General for Energy (DG Energy) and Member States in the implementation of this Regulation by identifying best practices in the development of Risk Assessments and Plans. The JRC is also supporting DG Energy in the review of all Risk Assessments and, under specfic request, some Plans. This way the JRC is contributing to enhance security of gas supply in the EU.

Techno-Economic Assessment for the Hydrocarbon Sector

An important aspect of the hydrocarbon sector regards the functioning of their markets, the interaction with other sectors, and the current and future energy infrastructure. In this context, DG JRC develops and uses models to provide an in-depth understanding of the energy system. In particular, DG JRC conducts techno-economic assessment to evaluate supply, demand, prices, security of supply, competition, market integration etc. For this purpose, crisis scenarios, new investments, changes in regulation, new cross-border interconnections, changing targets etc. are simulated to examine the potential implications for the achievement of the EU policy goals, on a local, regional, pan-European and even global scale.

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These activities are supported through the development and application of energy system modelling platforms (e.g. JRC-EU-TIMES, TIAM, PLEXOS, METIS), with a special focus on energy security implications. Such analyses contribute to the evaluation of international and European energy systems and the integration of other resources such as unconventional gas and oil resources, biogas, gases generated from processes power to gas (H2, methane). Examples of these activities are the DG JRC publication: Unconventional Gas: Unconventional Gas: Potential Energy Market Impacts in the European Union (2012), the support provided to the Stress Tests related to potential interruption of gas flows across Ukraine (2014), the support provided for the assessment of candidate energy Projects of Common Interest (2015, 2017, 2019), and the assessment of single investment items.

Unconventional Hydrocarbons and Open ECHO platform

In the wake of the shale gas boom in the USA, many EU Member States and other European countries have decided to assess their own unconventional resource potential by using a variety of methods, assumptions and source data. These efforts have resulted in widely ranging estimates lacking consistency and thus hampering a reliable insight in the European potential (including associated risk factors) and a good comparison among countries. European Commission together with the Geological Survey of Europe (EGS) has conducted a pan-European assessment of unconventional gas and oil resources, namely the EUOGA project (European Unconventional Oil and Gas Assessment). The project filled the gaps of previous assessments and provides a wide European scale basin-by basin resource potential that can serve as a common basis for making informed social, political and industrial decisions. In parallel, European Commission has set up a knowledge sharing platform - the European Unconventional Hydrocarbon Portal (Open ECHO) - in order to disseminate the project results and provide an overall informed overview of unconventional hydrocarbons activities in Europe.

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The EUOGA project used a shared and integrated geological model of the distribution and properties of shale layers in Europe and a uniform assessment methodology that lead to a European potential. The methodology is based on commonly agreed scientific evaluation criteria established between most European geological surveys. The results lead to a new harmonised and uniform geological knowledge on the location and specific components of the European shale gas and oil potential resources. The resources potential was determined using basin-by-basin or country-by-country evaluation. It provides the basis for establishing a knowledge framework that facilitates the integration of future exploration data gathered within various basins and countries and improves the general understanding of the greater European hydrocarbons exploration and production potential.

The Open ECHO portal compiles publically available evidences in order to inform concerned citizens about the European unconventional hydrocarbons experience. The main stakeholders of the portal are energy experts and policy makers but not limited as the portal is publically available from launching. Hence, in addition, citizens, researchers, academic, industry are targeted. This leads to portal ambivalence, whereas it has to serve users without previous knowledge about unconventional hydrocarbons along with users that holds the expertise and wants to retrieve or put in certain context (economical, technical, and geological) the information presented within the portal. The portal provides information about the following European unconventional hydrocarbons features: i. the potential (theoretical) geological resources, ii. the resources exploitation and its implication to environment, and iii. the impact to European energy sectors and markets. In a nutshell the portal content incorporates scientific and technical reports and publications, databases, modelling results, infographics, images, maps, and statistics. The key elements of the portal are three unique and innovative tools:

Oil and Gas Offshore safety

Offshore oil and gas are currently the main indigenous sources of hydrocarbon in the EU, covering an important fraction of our energy needs. Nevertheless, offshore drilling is not free of risks; major accidents with large consequences to human health, marine environment and coastal economies, may happen. Exploration activities are also moving towards deeper waters and borderline operations (e.g. high pressure – high temperature) and to more sensitive environments (e.g. Arctic), where hazards are more difficult to keep under control.

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The blowout of the Macondo well on 20 April 2010 had huge consequences. Eleven workers of the ‘Deepwater Horizon’ drilling rig died, the oil flow continued during almost three months, releasing almost five million barrels, which produced severe environmental and economic losses in the Gulf of Mexico. This event triggered the interest of the European Commission to study if the EU could be exposed to this type of calamity and to research the potential benefits of developing some legislation to decrease the associated risk. The JRC collaborates with other European Commission services to develop impact assessments in order to evaluate the potential benefits of different legislative options. The JRC is providing technical assistance and scientific support to the Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy on the implementation of certain provisions of Community legislation on safety of offshore oil and gas activities. These activities include the technical secretariat of the EU Offshore Authorities Group (EUOAG), developing a baseline study and reviewing industry and regulatory best practices within the Member States, Norway and other countries (especially new developments after the Macondo accident), developing a common reporting format for data on incidents, near-misses and safety performance, and developing – together with the Member States – comprehensive guidance to terms and definitions and other selected topics of the proposed legislation.

An electricity sub-station
© EU, 2011

An electricity sub-station