In brief

  • An Argentinian gas company is working with a regulator to reduce costs on a new blockchain system.
  • The network, called Gasnet, is a pilot produced by software companies IOV Labs and Grupo Sabra.
  • Gasnor intends for the major gas companies in Argentina to join the network.

As coronavirus throws the world into disarray, doomsday preppers worldwide are bracing themselves for the worst. First, the toilet paper runs out, then police stop arresting criminals. Who’s going to look after the natural gas?

Stand down, preppers: Blockchain has been helping the energy sector prep for social distancing all along. 

In Argentina today, IOV Labs, which powers blockchain network RSK, announced the launch of Gasnet, a permissioned blockchain network that cuts out the need for gas technicians to sign paperwork in offices—the whole process can now be entirely done online. It's now being piloted by Argentinian gas distribution company Gasnor, which services 2 million people in the country.

Upon signing up to a natural gas service provider in Argentina, new customers must hire a registered gasman, a contractor or technician who makes sure that gas installations are up to scratch. Previously, a gasman had to sign off on items in writing. But with the new system, the gasman’s credentials are logged on the RSK platform—which is secured by the Bitcoin blockchain—allowing technicians to sign off on new applications without having to attend the office of the gas distributor.

Of course, there’s more to it than allaying coronavirus fears.

The new network connects Argentina’s natural gas distributors, their service providers, and the country’s natural gas regulatory body, Enargas. 

With blockchain, “it is easier for the regulatory authority to control [the process], and more effective for gas distributors to share their key processes with the regulator,” Guillermo Villanueva told Decrypt. He’s CEO of Grupo Sabra, a software company that developed the blockchain project along with IOV. 

A group of industry heads “fully agreed” on the benefits of blockchain for “information sharing and document certification between different actors [in] the ecosystem,” said Villanueva. The government also likes the fact that the technology is integrated with their regulatory systems, he added.

Diego Gutierrez Zaldivar, CEO of IOV Labs, told Decrypt that since development started in 2019, Gasnet has made the onboarding process 25% more time-efficient. He expects time savings of 40% once all the stakeholders get up to scratch with the technology. 

It’ll already make things cheaper, a huge benefit for the Argentine economy, where gas represents 57% of the energy sector, according to Gutierrez Zaldivar, and has “a direct impact on the development of supply and on the costs assumed by demand.”

Making everything cheaper to run, he said, is “essential to lower the high costs of the energy system—which at the end of 2017 was 50% higher than neighboring countries and 100% higher than mature systems.” 

RSK and Grupo Sabra originally built Gasnet for Gasnor. Argentina’s national gas regulatory body, Enargas, has since sanctioned an expansion of the project to include all nine distribution companies in Argentina.