The world has for many years used fossil fuels as the default fuel for electricity generation, industries, and vehicle fleets. These fossil fuels, especially diesel and fuel oil, have had far-reaching impacts on our environment. They continue to suffocate our environment with sulfur, nitrogen, carbon, and other harmful greenhouse gases (GHG). To counter their effect and save our planet, every industry has to anchor its sustainability efforts on CO2 reduction. We have to make the energy transition to clean, renewable energy such as solar, hydro, and wind.
Making the energy transition isn’t as easy as it may sound at first. There currently doesn’t exist the technology or infrastructure needed to produce enough renewable energy to satisfy global energy needs. That’s why the world needs clean fuel to help with the transition. Natural gas is the right fossil fuel for the job. It is readily available, cheaper, and has significantly lower carbon emissions than coal, kerosene, petrol, and other dirty fuels.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
Natural gas is a sustainably-sourced, efficient, and affordable energy source. However, transporting this valuable product to the end user is problematic because gas can only be transported through a pipeline infrastructure. To make it possible to ship natural gas across oceans, experts in the energy sector developed a liquefaction technology that turns the gas into a cryogenic liquid that we now call LNG. LNG is a colorless, odorless, and environmentally friendly cryogenic liquid fuel. LNG is said to be a cryogenic liquid because it liquefies at -162°C and it’s stored at that temperature until it is re-gasified for distribution through pipelines.
How Useful Is LNG?
LNG is applicable in many sectors of the economy. Among them:
i. Road transport
LNG is, by estimation, 10-25% cheaper than diesel and other conventional fuels. And with new LNG re-fuelling stations coming up fast, LNG is set to claim its rightful place as the default fuel for fleet vehicles worldwide. In France, for example, Avia (a top fuel retailer) is investing in LNG refueling stations that will accelerate the adoption of LNG adoption in road transport.
Industry, especially those in geographically remote locations, rely on LNG for their energy needs because it is readily available. These include food processing plants, hotels & spas, and dairy products manufacturers. Spas and hotels mainly use LNG to warm water for their swimming pools.
iii. Marine shipping
LNG is gaining popularity as a marine fuel because its sulfur emissions fall within the acceptable range in sulfur emission control areas (SECAs). Its energy output per ton as a marine fuel is about 24% higher than heavy fuel oil.
iv. Complementing renewables
In countries that are keen on transitioning to renewable energy sooner than later, LNG is serving well as a backup fuel that keeps the economy going. The Philippines, for example, bets on imported natural gas to drive its 2023-2028 economic growth plan. The plan is to hit 8% annual growth in 2028, up from the current 6.5%. The government intends to phase out coal-based energy projects and instead shift to natural gas and renewable energy sources. They hope to raise the LNG and renewable energy adoption rate from the current 20% to 35% by 2030 and to 50% by 2040. This transition will provide local industries with cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient fuel, all while providing more employment opportunities in the local labor market. That’s one way of driving the country’s annual growth rate. Infrastructure provider Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific International Holdings (AG&P), led by CEO Joseph Sigelman, is among the companies helping the Philippines to make the transition. The company is in the process of installing the first-ever FSU-based LNG import terminal in the country.
Natural Gas and LNG: Sustainability
Compared to any other fossil fuel, natural gas is cleaner and more sustainable. Its CO2, NOx, and SO2 emissions are significantly lower than coal, and its combustion produces no ash or particulates. LNG-powered trucks produce up to 20% less carbon dioxide than diesel-powered trucks, which could be more dependent on vehicle type and duty cycle. What’s more, LNG evaporates rapidly when it spills on soil or water, leaving no residue.
Modern Floating Storage Regasification Units (FSRUs) come equipped with ballast-water treatment systems that eliminate LNG spillage to sea. Besides, LNG companies such as Hoegh LNG have strict waste management policies that limit LNG’s negative environmental impact. The company’s strict garbage disposal policy prohibits inorganic waste disposal in the ocean and organic waste disposal within 12 nautical miles from the shore. This is a step in the right direction as far as sustainability is concerned.
LNG is easy to transport both by road and sea. After regasification, the gas can easily be transported to remote and off-grid areas through pipelines. LNG caters to the often-overlooked businesses and residential users in remote areas. It’s replacing highly polluting fuels such as oil and coal and providing these remote regions with cleaner, more sustainable energy options.
Is there enough natural gas in the world to go around? Well, the world has enough natural gas reserves to last more than 2 centuries, even with rising energy demands. There currently are 7,177 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proved reserves in the world. There also are abundant reserves of LNG that are not proved yet.
Natural gas and LNG’s contribution to the transition to a low-carbon world is immense. And with LNG companies operating sustainably, both commercially and environmentally, there’s no doubt that LNG is the bridge to a sustainable future in the energy sector.