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Where does the electricity and the gas used in Belgium come from?

The natural gas we use in Belgium comes mainly from Norway, the United Kingdom, Qatar and Germany. It is brought in via various underground and undersea gas pipelines as well as by boat, in liquid form, via the Zeebrugge terminal.

The electricity is generated in Belgium and in the neighbouring countries (France, Germany, Switzerland, etc.) in different types of power stations. In Belgium, 7 nuclear reactors generate 52 % of the electricity. Next is natural gas, whose contribution was growing continuously before the price explosion of 2022 put a stop to the development of its use.

Belgium is a major energy importer

Belgium depends on imports of primary energy (that is energy available in nature) for over 74 % of its needs. Oil and natural gas are the primary energies most imported. These are followed by solid fuels (coal and others). Nuclear fuel (uranium) is also imported.

Where does the natural gas come from?

Natural gas is taken from gas fields which are usually found in the same production zones as oil. From the producer countries, it is brought to the borders of Belgium in gas pipelines or gas tankers.

  • Land-based gas pipelines carry gas to Belgium from the North Sea (Norway) and Germany. Undersea pipelines bring gas from the United Kingdom, as well as carrying the remainder of the Norwegian gas.
  • Gas tankers are huge ships that carry natural gas in liquid state, which takes up 600 times less space that in its gaseous state. In this way, a large quantity of energy can be transported in a small volume. Belgium is supplied by gas tankers via the Zeebrugge terminal (in operation since 1987), where these ships come and unload their cargo. The liquid gas is stored there temporarily in storage tanks. It is then regasified and injected into the transmission and then the distribution network. The terminal has an annual capacity of nine billion cubic metres of natural gas and 110 ships a year can be unloaded there.

Electricity: a secondary energy

Electricity is a so-called “secondary” energy because it is always generated by transforming a primary energy.

  • Generation from imported primary energy
  •  in nuclear power plants: this is the case for 52 % of the electricity used in Belgium. 7 nuclear reactors operate here, 4 in Doel and 3 in Tihange. These reactors are regularly shut down for inspection of the installations.
  • in thermal power stations: these run on coal, oil or natural gas. The share of natural gas is increasing steadily here in Belgium. This corresponds to a proportional reduction in the use of coal, which is more polluting.
  • Generation using primary energy present in Belgium.

    Here in Belgium, these power stations use exclusively renewable energy forms (wind, solar, hydraulic, biomass, biogas) and recycled products (waste). The quantity of electricity generated using renewable energy forms has risen substantially over the past 15 years, but remains small compared with the total amount generated (7.5 % in 2009, 13 % in 2021). Over the same period, the total quantity of electricity generated has increased by over 20 %.

It is also worth noting that some of the electricity used in Belgium is imported from neighbouring countries (France, Germany, Switzerland, etc.).

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