Context: As the Europe is turning towards Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) instead of Russian gas, climate activists call it a major setback in the global warming fight.
LNG and its Impact on Climate Change Background
- Europe’s dependence on Russia for Natural Gas: Russia is the biggest supplier of natural gas to Europe, which depends on the former for nearly 40% of its natural gas requirements.
- Russia-Ukraine War: Amid the war, Russia has drastically reduced gas supplies to Europe in recent months, with flows via the pipeline operating at just 20% of the agreed-upon volume before the indefinite suspension.
- Shift towards LNG: Presently, Europe is increasing the import of LNG from the US to compensate for lost Russian gas supplies. With this move, the EU has become the biggest LNG importer in the world.
What is Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)?
- LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to –260° F (–162° C), changing it from a gas into a liquid that is 1/600th of its original volume.
- This dramatic reduction allows it to be shipped safely. After arriving at its destination, the cargo is regasified in a floating terminal and redistributed through pipelines.
- Composition: Methane makes up around 90% or more of the LNG.
- The rest of the LNG is composed of other gases such as ethane, propane, and butane and trace amounts of other gases like CO2, nitrogen, helium and various types of hydrocarbons like ethylene, propylene and butadiene.
- Several Applications of LNG:
- Power Generation: LNG can be used to generate electricity in power plants, which can be a cleaner-burning alternative to coal.
- Transportation: LNG can be used as a transportation fuel for ships, trucks, and buses.
- Industrial: LNG can be used as a fuel for industrial processes such as heating, cooling and providing energy for chemical reactions.
- Residential and Commercial: LNG can be used for heating, cooking, and generating electricity in homes and businesses in areas without access to natural gas pipelines.
- Peaking power: LNG can be used as a backup fuel for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar which can be intermittent.
- As a feedstock: LNG can be used as a feedstock in chemical and petrochemical industries.
What are the Climate Impacts of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)?
- Greenhouse gas emissions: The extraction, processing, and transportation of natural gas, including LNG, can result in the release of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.
- Energy-intensive: The process of liquefying natural gas is energy-intensive and can result in emissions of greenhouse gases.
- Methane leakages: The leakage of methane during the extraction, processing, and transportation of natural gas and LNG can significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential that is 28 times higher than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time horizon.
- Imported emissions: The numerous stages required to take LNG from the wellhead to the market lead to a “very high imported emissions intensity” in comparison to piped gas, whose emissions are limited to upstream and transport and processing.
- High emission intensity: LNG emits 14 times as much carbon as solar power when producing the equivalent amount of energy, and 50 times as much carbon as wind power.
- Overall, the impact of LNG on climate will depend on the specific circumstances of its extraction, processing, transportation, and end use.
- While it can have a lower emissions than some fossil fuels, it is still a fossil fuel and has an impact on climate change.
- It’s important to ensure that the LNG industry is regulated and that emissions are properly monitored and controlled to minimize its impact on the climate.