Gas definitions for the European Union

Decarbonizing the EU’s gas sector requires identifying and deploying the best-performing sources of alternative gas. However, the wide variety of feedstocks and conversion pathways for producing gases necessitates more nuanced terms than “renewable” or “sustainable” to characterize their suitability for long-term decarbonization.

A coherent debate on the role of gas in decarbonization is not possible without a common understanding of which specific strategies and pathways must be promoted. Rather than characterizing broad categories of fuels as either “good” or “bad,” more nuanced language is needed which takes into account the climate performance both across and within different gas production systems. A full, life-cycle analysis is necessary to properly evaluate the climate impacts of a specific gas producer.

This briefing paper discusses key terms related to gas in the context of energy policy and climate change mitigation goals in the European Union. It also proposes a method of categorizing gas sources based on their GHG emissions intensity and illustrates how these categories can be used to refer to gas from different sources.

categorization of gases
Table 1: Summary of gas types according to key definitions of environmental performance
Alternative fuels