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The Low Carbon Economy Ltd

06 May 2010 11:05:26

What role will natural gas play in a low carbon economy?

What role will natural gas play in a low carbon economy?
One of the most fundamental changes which needs to be made if the world is to stop global warming and create a new low carbon economy is for its population to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels.

The fact that an alternative to fossil fuels would have to be discovered was an accepted truth before climate change even became an issue and alternative energy sources have been in development for many years.

Now solar power, wind power and hydroelectricity have become part the UK's energy mix, however they need to play a much larger part.

But what role will natural gas have in the low carbon economy?

A study by the World Watch Institute concludes that natural gas will be a key player in the US's transition to a low carbon economy. The move from coal to gas has already played a large part in the UK's emission reductions over the past two decades.

The authors of the research stated that natural gas, particularly that which is now being uncovered from unconventional reserves, is far less "carbon intensive" than both oil and gas.

They added that natural gas can be used in conjunction with renewable energy sources to provide "flexible backup" when there is a large demand on power, which simply could not be done with coal.

However, if people come to see natural gas as a viable resource to perform this role it could have a negative impact on the development of energy storage technologies. This concern is heightened by the fact that using natural gas for this purpose is only a very short term solution, as the production of gas from the North Sea will be 80 per cent less than it was in 2004 by 2015.

And this could be where the real sticking point lies. Will presenting natural gas as part of the transition to a low carbon economy dissuade people from searching for alternatives?

The BBC reported last year that upgraded figures on the level of natural gas reserves in the US makes it more cost effective to extract and means it will support long term supply. This makes the use of natural gas a reality in the US's plans for a low carbon economy.

New drilling techniques enabled the country to tap into reserves within tight sands and shale rock, however there have been concerns over the environmental impact of this drilling.

Rune Bjornson, head of the gas division at Statoil, claimed that if Europe was to convert its coal power stations to natural gas then carbon emissions would be reduced by 40 per cent.

The World Watch Institute study concludes by saying that replacing the use of oil and coal with natural gas will help reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

What needs to be done now is finding a way of using natural gas to its fullest advantage, while ensuring its impact on carbon emissions is as low as possible. The question is how will this be done? ADNFCR-1235-ID-19761446-ADNFCR

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