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Natural Gas Use Said Key to Reduce GHG Emissions

Economic and environmental factors should push global natural gas demand to more than 4 trillion cubic meters (Tcm) a year (141 Tcf/year) by 2030, according to a three-year study by the International Gas Union (IGU) issued last week at the World Gas Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A global political agreement to put a high cost on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to encourage more renewable energy use "would only be economically successful" if used in combination with more gas, the authors noted.

"After three years of research, analysis and challenge, our experts have concluded that, whatever path we take, gas is part of the solution," said Roberto Brandt, leader of the IGU's 2030 study management team. "Gas market growth cannot be taken for granted," but "the scenarios show that economic and environmental factors should drive global demand from around 3 Tcm per annum now to well over 4 Tcm per annum by 2030."

Two global gas scenarios to 2030 were compared in the study: one that represented current energy policies unchanged, the other representing a shift to a "green policy."

If current energy policies worldwide basically unchanged, global energy demand in 2030 would reach 16.5 billion tons/year of oil equivalent, the study found. Natural gas would represent around 23%, or 4.3 Tcf/year. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from all fuels would reach 41.6 billion tons/year.

Using a "green policy" scenario to 2030, the authors concluded that worldwide energy demand would reach 15 billion tons/year of oil equivalent. Natural gas would represent 28%, or 4.8 Tcm/year. CO2 emissions from all fuels would reach 27.7 billion tons/year.

The green policy scenario envisioned a GHG emissions agreement among industrialized nations when they meet in Copenhagen, Denmark in December (see related story). The scenario also envisioned "reinforcement by 2020" of a global climate change policy that leads to more changes by 2030.

Combining a global agreement that sustains the "high cost of carbon" with policies that promote IGU sustainability principles should lead to a "dramatic improvement" in CO2 emissions, the authors said.

"The most striking result is that a global political agreement to put a high cost on carbon dioxide emissions and to encourage renewable energy would only be economically successful in combination with an increased share of natural gas," the study noted. "The right policies" would boost gas from 21% of the global fuel mix today to 28% by the year 2030.

"Gas is a flexible, efficient, low-carbon fuel -- the ideal partner for renewable energy technologies," said Colin Lyle, who coordinated the IGU study. "Globally there is no 'peak oil' problem for gas."

IGU President Ernesto L. Anadon said "the biggest constraints we face are geopolitical and cannot be solved nationally. We need international agreements and international solutions. As consumers we can all help meet the future energy challenge: do it less, do it efficiently, do it with gas."

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