Where does the CO2 used to produce the synthetic gas come from?
At the Hellisheidi site, CO2 is produced as a by-product of the geothermal power plant. The CO2 is trapped in the rock and escapes into the atmosphere as part of the process of energy generation from geothermal energy. This is a natural process comparable to a volcanic eruption. For the power-to-gas plant, the CO2 is captured and fed into the methanation process as a raw material.
How is the gas climate-friendly when it first has to be transported to Switzerland by ship?
A life cycle analysis conducted by the independent consulting firm Swiss Climate has shown that carbon emissions are reduced by around 75 per cent if renewable gas from Iceland is used in Switzerland instead of natural gas. This includes all greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production and transport of the renewable gas. However, greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production and transport of natural gas are not taken into account. In a comprehensive life cycle analysis, renewable gas would therefore perform even better. Thanks to liquefaction, the renewable gas can be transported in a very compact and thus efficient manner. If it becomes possible in future to use renewable fuels for shipping as well, the renewable gas from Iceland will become climate neutral.
Why is the renewable gas transported by ship to Switzerland and not imported via the European gas network?
With the current legislation, it is not possible to import renewable gas as such into Switzerland if it was fed into a gas pipeline abroad. When crossing the border, it is not possible to prove from which source the individual gas molecule in the pipeline originates. Imported gas is therefore always treated by customs as natural gas. When importing via container, however, the origin is clear. This is currently the only possible way to import renewable gas without carbon tax (for import as fuel) or to claim a mineral oil tax relief (for import as motor fuel).
Does the carbon tax have to be paid on imported renewable gas?
No, this only has to be paid on fossil fuels. Biogas as a renewable fuel does not fall under the CO2 law. However, since the electronic customs system currently automatically levies the carbon tax on imported gas (whether fossil or renewable), the Directorate General of Customs needs to issue a letter allowing the customs officer to manually override the electronic customs system and allow the imported biogas to enter Switzerland without a carbon tax.
Is imported renewable gas recognised for compliance with the cantonal model regulations in the energy sector (MuKEn)?
Originally, biogas and synthetic renewable gas were not intended as renewable energy sources in the MuKEn. However, in a letter to the cantons, the Conference of Cantonal Energy Directors (EnDK) recommended that renewable gas be recognised if certain conditions are met (proof of renewability, exclusion of double marketing of ecological added value, inclusion of carbon reduction in greenhouse gas statistics). Implementing this recommendation is a matter for the cantons. In some cantons, renewable gas is already recognised, while in others the implementation of the MuKEn is still in progress.
Is the carbon reduction achieved by importing renewable gas reflected in the Swiss greenhouse gas inventory?
When renewable gas is physically imported into Switzerland, as in the Nordur project, it appears as such in the Swiss greenhouse gas inventory. Only carbon from fossil fuels is relevant for achieving the international climate targets. This means that carbon emissions in Switzerland fall if renewable gas from Iceland is used instead of natural gas.