Technology About gas

Common bias about gas

 By Amanda Saint
About gas

There’s no denying that climate change is being driven by the burning of fossil fuels but, as is often the case, the facts often come surrounded by myths. Amanda Saint looks at some of the common bias about gas and what’s true and what’s not…

(Cover photo by www.cultureplusconsulting.com)

  • Common Bias #1 – Gas is an unreliable fuel due to the Ukraine crisis

The disputes between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplies and prices culminated in supplies to Ukraine stopping completely in 2015 and Russia stating that it will stop supplying to other European countries via Ukraine from 2018.

As Russia is one of the largest suppliers of gas to the European Union (EU), this has obviously fueled concerns over the future of gas as a reliable source. But as Bloomberg reported earlier this year, Ukraine has managed to get by without Russia’s supplies and the EU has been upping its supplies from countries such as Norway and Algeria, among others.

Within the EU many countries also have significant natural gas reserves including the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Cyprus and Denmark. So even without Russian supplies, there are still a lot of options for the continent to rely on gas for the foreseeable future while the continuing move to renewables is made.

SEE MORE: Gas as a bridge by Robin Wylie

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  • Common Bias #2 – Gas is too expensive

The most recent statistics released by the EU, from the analysis of electricity and gas supply prices for households and industrial consumers from 2010-2012, show that gas was the cheaper option per kilowatt hour (kwh). For households, the average was $0.23/kWh for electricity compared to $0.08/kwh for gas. For businesses it’s a similar story with industrial consumers averaging at $0.13/kwh for electricity and $0.04/kwh for gas. It’s not just the costs to the end user that needs to be taken into account — the entire lifecycle of costs from extraction to supply have to be considered.

This is a very difficult figure to pin down, as across the sector the technologies used to extract and process fuel sources vary. The age of power plants is another factor and how far the power then has to be transported. So in its 2014 report “Subsidies and the costs of EU energy” the analysts calculated the levelized costs of producing electricity (LCOE) and heat (LCOH), which show that gas is the 6th cheapest option of 15 power sources, both renewable and fossil fuels.

Source: Subsidies and costs of EU energy
  • Common Bias #3 – Gas is “just another fossil fuel” and they’re all as bad as each other

Of all the fossils fuels burned to supply power, heat, agriculture, industry and transport, according to statistics released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas emits the least carbon dioxide (CO2). As the development of the renewable energy sector continues, this shows that natural gas should be the preferred of the fossil fuels to meet growing power demands.

  • Common Bias #4 – Gas is a “fuel of the past”

The move to generate power, heat and transport fuel through renewable and greener sources is without doubt gathering momentum, but the truth is that the world is a long way from a complete move away from fossil fuels. So seeing as natural gas is the cheapest option, in terms of both monetary and environmental costs, it seems that it can’t be written off just yet. With global natural gas reserves still at significant levels, and cleantech innovations helping to reduce the impacts of burning it, it’s likely that gas will remain a part of the energy mix for the foreseeable future.

Co2 emissions by fuel type
  • Common Bias #5 – Electricity is a better partner than gas for the energy mix toward a low carbon future

This is not such an easy myth to bust as it all depends on where the energy that creates the electricity comes from. If it’s from a coal-powered station, probably not, but from a wind farm, then yes it could be argued it is. So there is really no straight answer to this one. But a report from the World Energy Council “Deciding the Future: Energy Policy Scenarios to 2050” said that by 2050 global supplies would have to double to meet demand as emerging economies continue to develop and the world’s population carries on growing.

The same report said that from 2020 onwards, natural gas will become an increasingly important tool in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions from power production. Looking ahead to the world’s future energy mix in a low carbon economy, it still includes the burning of fossil fuels, albeit in a cleaner, more efficient way that limits emissions even more than has already been achieved today.

So, despite the anti-fossil fuel global backlash against gas, with the right technological innovations to lessen its environmental impact, it still has a big part to play in powering the world while newer, greener sources continue to develop.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: Zohr discovery by Eniday staff

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about the author
Amanda Saint
Journalist and content writer, specialised in engineering and technology with a focus on environmental sustainability, urbanisation and biotechnology.