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article imageNatural gas boom is on a collision course with climate crisis

By Karen Graham     Jul 2, 2019 in Environment
A global boom in natural gas pipelines and terminals is putting the energy industry on a "collision course" with the Paris climate goals, according to a new analysis of investment in the world's new favorite fossil fuel.
According to France 24, industry watchdog, Global Energy Monitor writes that the explosion in investment on planned new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and pipelines, most of them centered in the U.S. and Canada, along with new estimates for leakage from the LNG supply chain called fugitive gas, means that LNG is on its way to becoming "the new coal."
"New studies have shown there is significantly more fugitive gas than studies showed five years ago, and the gas is also a bigger contributor to climate change than was understood," said James Browning, one of the report's authors. Methane, the chief component in natural gas, is responsible for 25 percent of global warming to date.
The newly released report titled The New Gas Boom provides a fresh analysis of the $1.3 trillion being invested in this global gas expansion - including where the money is being invested and the pipelines and facilities being constructed. More importantly, with the falling costs of renewable resources - the report also assesses the long-term financial viability and stranded asset risk.
Aerial view of Freeport LNG facility
Aerial view of Freeport LNG facility
Freeport LNG Development, L.P.
Natural gas takes the place of coal
Nearly 200 countries signed a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Scientists say the world must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions, a large proportion of which comes from burning fossil fuels for energy.
Many credible sources say LNG is an environmental wonder fuel compared to coal, oil and even bio-energy. And this is true, to an extent. LNG produces less than half the amount of carbon dioxide of coal, less nitrogen oxide, and almost no sulfur dioxide, both harmful gasses found in smog, according to CBC News.
LNG produces a mere fraction of the airborne particulates generated by burning biofuels. So it would seem natural gas is far more attractive for smog-bound cities, especially in Asia, currently using coal to heat and to make electricity.
NorthWest SeaEagle LNG tanker
NorthWest SeaEagle LNG tanker
Royal Dutch Shell
Global methane concentrations have risen from 722 parts per billion (ppb) in pre-industrial times to 1866 ppb by 2019, an increase by a factor of 2.5 and the highest value in at least 800,000 years.
Methane in the Earth's atmosphere is a strong greenhouse gas with a global warming potential (GWP) 104 times greater than CO2 in a 20-year time frame. According to NOAA, the atmospheric methane concentration has continued to increase since 2011 to an average global concentration of 1866 ppb as of July 2019.
With coal-fired power plants on the way out and renewable energy costs plunging - the fossil fuel industry cranked up production of natural gas, especially in the U.S. - creating a flood of gas on the global market. Even with a surplus of LNG, energy companies plan to spend about $507 billion in the United States alone on LNG import and export terminals, according to the report. That's the most in the world and nearly $100 billion above Canada, the next closest country, reports CNN.
The bottom line in all this is that at the rate the world is going now, future CO2 emissions from existing and proposed new energy infrastructure would render the 1.5C climate limit unreachable.
More about Natural gas, US LNG Boom, collision course, Climate crisis, Fossil fuels
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