Odorization of Natural Gas versus Odorization of Biomethane: Does Equal Legal Treatment of Biomethane on EU and Dutch National Levels Translate into the Same Odorization Regime?
19 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2015
Date Written: June 6, 2014
Untreated natural gas is a colorless and an odorless substance, difficult to detect in ambient air. Odorization is is process of adding an odor to natural gas, and it is crucial for safe gas consumption, as it allows a lay person to detect gas leakages and to take measures to eliminate them. An important development for the gas sector is the emergence of biomethane- biogas upgraded to the quality to natural gas- that can be injected into the natural gas network. Just like natural gas, biomethane has to be odorized in order to possess a characteristic alarming ‘gas’ smell. Biomethane is increasingly recognized as an equivalent to natural gas in legal terms: e.g. Third Energy Package applies in equal measure to both biomethane and natural gas. This is also the case in the Dutch national legislation. In view of the above issues, an important question arises, and namely: Are the legal developments on European and Dutch national level in relation to biomethane translating into an equal legal regime applicable to its odorization in comparison to natural gas? The current paper applies theoretical framework embedded in institutional economics as a starting point and employs functionalist perspective as the method of legal comparative analysis. The paper reaches the conclusion that on the European and Dutch national levels there is no divergence between the legal regimes as applicable to natural gas and respectively to biomethane. Whereas in terms of legal provisions related to the odorization of both gases on a more technical and applied level some discrepancies are indeed identified, it is established that these differences are dictated by the technical and market aspects of the current Dutch practices of biomethane production and injection into the natural gas grid, rather than by regulatory disconnection between technology development and legal system.
Keywords: biomethane, biogas, natural gas, odorization, legal
JEL Classification: Q40, Q42, Q48, Q20, Q28, L95, L98
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