Natural Gas reliable & climate-friendly
Natural gas is an all-rounder: It can be used today to reduce CO2 emissions not only in power generation, but also in the heating market and the mobility sector – and tomorrow to produce hydrogen.
The global community faces a major energy policy challenge in the years ahead: emissions have to be slashed, yet we need to secure a supply of affordable energy. Natural gas as the most climate-friendly fossil fuel is the answer for both. There is a well-developed network of pipelines and storage facilities, and the technologies have proven their worth over decades and are reliable and efficient. Since it’s versatile, it can be used to significantly reduce CO2 emissions not only in power generation, but also in the heating market and the mobility sector. And natural gas can become even more climate-friendly by being used to produce hydrogen. The clear conclusion: Natural gas has a future.
To halt global warming, climate targets were set at both global and national levels. Germany is among the countries with the most ambitious targets, which is why it has given massive support to developing renewables, first and foremost wind and solar energy. Nevertheless, CO2 emissions are not decreasing, and 750 million tonnes per year on average are still emitted each year, because climate-damaging coal continues to be the primary source of energy.
In order to halt climate change, however, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut swiftly. Natural gas can make an important contribution to that: Gas-fired power plants emit on average 65 per cent less emissions than coal-fired power plants. This example demonstrates that, if we are serious about protecting the climate, we not only have to use resources efficiently, but also need natural gas and its versatility. This most climate-friendly of conventional fuels delivers a reliable and affordable supply of energy. Natural gas is thus the ideal partner for renewables.
The heating market now accounts for half of global end user energy consumption. 46 per cent of that is attributable to the building sector. It is therefore clear that the energy transition cannot succeed if there is no true transition in the heating sector. Yet it is also clear that such a transition in the heating sector can only be successful if it is socially responsible. It must also be affordable for homeowners and tenants. That is possible with gas as a reliable, low-cost option.
The industry must become greener and reduce its emissions – for that goal, natural gas is a vital component as the amount of industrial electricity generated from natural gas has almost doubled in the last ten years. It now accounts for 50 per cent. Natural gas is and will remain the backbone of industry. The energy transition can only succeed if it takes into account the triad of security of supply, competitiveness (of industry) and social acceptance (for private households).
Natural gas can make an immediate and key contribution to climate protection in the mobility sector: Compressed natural gas (CNG) burns almost particulate-free, and its CO2 emissions are around 35 per cent lower than a conventional petrol-driven model. If biogas is used as the fuel, total greenhouse gas emissions by a vehicle can even be slashed by up to 97 per cent. It can also make a crucial contribution to protecting the climate in shipping: A ship running on liquefied natural gas (LNG) emits around 30 per cent less CO2 than one powered by maritime diesel.
Electricity is now one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors. Demand for it will more than double by 2050. So that the climate targets can be met, the share of natural gas in the global electricity market must be increased as a matter of urgency. After all, gas-fired power plants are not only more efficient than coal-fired plants, but also better for the climate and the environment: They emit almost 65 per cent less CO2 and almost no particulates. In addition, their high degree of flexibility makes them the ideal partner for renewables.
Hydrogen is a key to more climate protection (cf. Hydrogen for Europe study). Even a hydrogen admixture in the European gas grid of 20 per cent could cut CO2 emissions by 60 million tonnes a year – the amount Denmark emits in an entire year. However, large quantities of hydrogen are needed quickly for the European hydrogen market to be successful. Such quantities cannot be obtained solely from renewables at present. The future hydrogen market can succeed only with natural gas.
With its clear price and quantity benefits, hydrogen from natural gas can quickly and reliably make up for renewable shortfalls and establish the hydrogen market we urgently need. Further, blue or turquoise hydrogen from natural gas delivers CO2 reductions without unduly burdening purchasers. The decarbonisation of natural gas can contribute to soon making our energy system more affordable and CO2-neutral and so become a key to achieving the climate targets. As hydrogen is about to revolutionise the whole energy system, this might occur as well for transportation one day soon.