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Gas has 'limited role' under aims of Paris climate deal

22 Jun 2017 13:33 (+01:00 GMT)
Gas has 'limited role' under aims of Paris climate deal

London, 22 June (Argus) — Natural gas can only have a very limited role as a "bridging fuel" to a fully renewable power sector if the goals of the Paris climate agreement are to be met, according to a report by non-governmental organisation (NGO) Climate Action Tracker (CAT).

A number of industry groups, including the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative have argued in the wake of the Paris agreement that gas has a role to play as a lower-carbon alternative to coal-fired generation in the period before 2050 because of the intermittent nature of current renewable technologies.

But because the Paris agreement requires a complete decarbonisation of the power sector by 2050, there is "little space for any kind of fossil fuel, including natural gas," according to the report, entitled: Foot off the Gas.

Even if coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, data analysed by the CAT shows that significant emissions would still result from methane leakage and inefficient CCS capture rates.

"To reach zero emissions, the residual emissions from CCS-enabled gas would have to be balanced out by negative emissions technologies," it said.

The argument that gas contributes to the flexibility of the power grid has been weakened by an increasing number of alternative solutions that could achieve the same effect, the report continues.

Expanded, more efficient, grids will better handle intermittent generation. And demand-side management, greater use of hydro and biogas, and improved battery storage technologies could also contribute to a completely decarbonised power sector by 2050.

The increasing market share of renewables because of their rapid cost decline will leave only a small part of the electricity supply for fossil fuel generation in most regions, even in the period before 2050, according to the report.

In the US, Europe and Australia significant investments are being made in natural gas exploration and infrastructure.

Either these investments could lock countries into an emissions pathway that is inconsistent with the goals of the Paris agreement, or they risk the construction of assets that will become stranded, the report concludes.