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Gas Infrastructure Sustainability FAQ Glossary
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Natural gas, contributing to Europe's energy and climate goals
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> In shaping its long-term energy policy, the European Union (EU) has set out three core priorities: maintaining economic competitiveness, transitioning to a low-carbon economy and ensuring security of supply.
> Gas is the cheapest and quickest way to bring immediate reductions in carbon emissions when replacing higher-carbon fuel for power generation.
> The versatility of natural gas makes it ideally placed to contribute towards reducing CO2 emissions, while providing the secure and reliable energy that Europe requires now and in the future.
> Gas is the ideal partner for variable renewables: when the sun does not shine, at night, and when the wind does not blow, gas-fired plants can be turned on quickly to meet energy demand.
> To make low-carbon Europe a reality, energy policies need to acknowledge and confirm the key role of gas now and in the long-term.
Gas is secure, versatile, competitive and makes a clean future real
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> When used for power generation, natural gas has a lower carbon footprint and fewer particulate matter emissions, resulting in cleaner air for European citizens.
> Gas is a secure option because there are significant gas reserves and untapped resources in Europe and elsewhere. Europe is strongly committed to widening its array of suppliers, both through pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) transported by sea.
> On the demand side, gas is by nature versatile: not only is it the ideal fuel for power generation and heating but it can also be an efficient fuel for transport.
> The price of gas is competitive, requiring no subsidies for future supplies. In the long-term, natural gas-fired power generation allows policy makers to keep all options open. It is the no regret option.
> After 2030, the use of existing, largely amortized plants for backup would be more economical than building dedicated backup for renewable capacity. When carbon capture and storage (CCS) matures, base load gas-fired power generation could provide even further emissions reductions.
The role of policy makers

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> To make the transition to a low-carbon energy system happen in the future, policy makers have a strong role to play today. Especially in these times of economic and financial uncertainty, investors need strong positive signals from policy makers. The gas industry needs a predictable long-term framework to provide the legal and regulatory stability required for investment and the transition to a low-carbon future.
> The first of these signals must be to recognise the key role of gas in the long-term in order to decarbonise society, in conjunction with other low-carbon technologies. The shift to a low-carbon power sector will require huge investments; from a recent level of €45bn per year to some €70bn over the next two decades, just for renewable and conventional generation.
> The EU has also outlined that significant improvements are still needed to make our energy grids ready for a decarbonised energy system. The European Commission estimates the investments needed in the gas grid alone to be €70bn by 2020. Investments in gas infrastructure are crucial to complete the internal energy market. Moreover, R&D in natural gas has to be supported to achieve immediate emission reductions and to enable technologies, such as CCS.
> Finally, the power market itself has to adapt and become more flexible in order to accommodate the massive projected increase in renewable power generation. Guaranteeing backup for variable renewable energy sources to ensure continuous and reliable electricity supply for European citizens will put pressure on gas networks. The internal energy market may need to evolve in order to acknowledge this increasing need for capacity and availability rather than output. Capacity based market mechanisms should be carefully examined.
> Natural gas already offers solutions for a sustainable future today and will naturally play a key role in the long term, provided the right policy signals are in place.
A cleaner energy source

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> Better health and cleaner cities
Natural gas produces two to three times less NOx (nitrogen oxide) per unit of energy content than other fossil fuels. Natural gas also contributes to significantly decreasing particulate pollution in our cities.
> Lower CO2 emissions
Natural gas has been a principal contributor of reduced CO2 emissions since 1990 as it has substituted for other fuels in older, more polluting equipment. It has been estimated that the conversion of all power generation run by carbon-intensive fuels to best performance combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants would cut emissions by 58% (relative to 1990 levels in the power sector).
> Higher energy efficiency
CCGT plants can achieve thermal efficiency rates of 55 to 60%, compared with thermal efficiencies of 35 to 42% for coal and for nuclear. When they can be used in combined heat and power (CHP) systems–where natural gas is the ideal fuel – they can achieve efficiencies of over 80%.
> Biogas, green gas, and decarbonisation
The carbon content of gas distributed to our homes, offices and factories can be further reduced by the injection of biogas (or ‘green gas’) into the high pressure transmission system of natural gas. R&D and technical progress in purifying biogas increases its potential and also opens opportunities for the direct blending of hydrogen (up to about 10% H2) into gas distribution - providing more CO2 savings.
> Advancing technologies
R&D is also focusing on new cuttingedge technologies such as the storage of renewable-derived hydrogen obtained by water electrolysis. This is yet another research avenue which advances the frontiers of energy efficiency by the deployment of micro-CHP systems and gas heat pumps suitable for homes, schools and offices. Advanced technologies such as microcogenerators and gas heat pumps will increase energy savings and enhance renewables.
> CCS and gas
The remaining emissions from gas-fired power generation can be captured and stored in depleted oil and gas fields or saline aquifers using CCS technology. This technology has yet to reach full-scale deployment, but we expect it to be used widely in the power and industrial sectors from around 2030 onwards.
> Opening options
Investing in high-efficiency gas-fired power plants today can bring immediate carbon reductions. Moreover it would open up future opportunities to partner these plants with variable renewables, or to explore retrofit as an option for CCS–depending on which is the better technical and economic option at the time. Natural gas in power generation is characterised by comparatively low capital expenditure (half as much as coal, one-tenth of nuclear per GW) and potentially leads to more rapid cost recovery.
A secure energy source

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> Abundant natural gas reserves
The global natural gas resource base is vast and geographically dispersed. Conventional recoverable gas resources are equivalent to 120 years of current global consumption. Global proven gas reserves have more than doubled since 1980, reaching 190 trillion cubic metres at the beginning of 2010.
> Liquefied natural gas
LNG allows access to a global gas resource base, reducing the risk for importing countries to be dependent on one or a limited number of suppliers, and providing quick access to alternative sources in case of disruption. The LNG industry has a total of around 1,660 billion cubic metres (bcm) available for sale from existing production over the period 2009-2025. In 2010, Europe imported around 82 bcm of LNG from 13 different countries. The biggest LNG exporting country is Qatar, representing 41% of total LNG supplies to Europe; a useful point when considering the security of supply.
> New suppliers
The growth of pipeline trade has enabled the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Caspian and North African countries to connect to Europe, thus reinforcing European security of gas supply by diversifying its import routes. New infrastructure enables the development of unexploited resources, adding to the global resource base.
> Global gas
The worldwide potential of natural gas from shales and other newly recoverable resources such as coal bed methane is expected to extend current production by a century or more and mitigate the decline of domestic production in Europe. It is yet to be determined whether the volumes at stake could be a game changer for domestic production in Europe. But already, the large scale development of these resources in North America and Australia has transformed global gas markets, freeing up more gas to go elsewhere, including Europe.
> Infrastructure and storage
Gas is stored to make sure that customers will be supplied even when there are big changes in the weather. Stored gas also helps to make up for changes in supply so that customers are protected. Pipes and storage infrastructure can move the gas around and make it available where it is needed in a highly efficient way. The European gas industry invests billions of euros per year to develop its infrastructure. As new import routes are being built in northern Europe, south eastern corridors are also being studied.
> Energy transportation
Gas transportation has a smaller footprint than, for example, electricity. Natural gas pipelines can transport much more energy than overland electricity transmission lines; and investing in them is particularly efficient due to the comparatively high energy content that can be transported through the underground pipelines.
A versatile energy source partnering with renewables
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> Power generation The technology for using natural gas in power generation is extremely efficient, rapidly deployable and affordable, making gas ideally versatile. Gas-fired plants provided 22% of annual power demand in Europe in 2010. Gas-fired plants are the most energy efficient of all power plants because of this technology.
> Gas and renewables Gas-fired power plants are the most flexible for adapting to the changing energy needs of European citizens, in partnership with variable energy supply from wind and solar power. When the sun does not shine, at night, and when the wind does not blow, gas-fired plants can be turned on quickly to meet energy demand. Sufficient gas infrastructures, including storage and LNG terminals, need to be in place in order to provide the flexibility that renewables need.
> Heating Natural gas offers a highly efficient solution for the heating needs of domestic, commercial and industrial customers. In terms of reducing our carbon emissions, condensing boilers can be up to twice as effective as converting gas into electricity for space heating, once electricity grid losses are taken into account.
> Gas-fired applications Next generation gas technologies, such as micro-CHP, cogeneration, gas-fired fuel cells and gas heat pumps are being developed to heat and generate electricity for low-emission buildings. These will have a primary energy ration (PER) of up to 1.85 for heating and a PER of up to 2.75 for simultaneous heating and cooling.
> Road transport Gas is well suited for use in fleet vehicles and, potentially for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), for which second generation biofuels may be less readily available.
> Maritime transport Ship-owners have been the forerunners in LNG-fuelled vessels and the interest in this new solution is growing globally. In the coming decades, LNG may become the fuel of choice for some segments of the shipping industry (inland ferries and offshore supply vessels). The shift towards LNG is driven by concerns about local air quality in harbours and along coastlines, as well as new rules from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
A competitive energy source

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> Cost comparison
Natural gas is typically 1/3 of the price of electricity per kWh in Europe and it is for this reason the preferred source for heating and hot water.
> Efficiency
Compared to other fossil fuels, when producing electricity or heat, natural gas has a higher conversion efficiency rate resulting in less energy wastage, while being cost-efficient. Natural gas is easier to store than electricity and can be transported easily, silently and invisibly through underground pipelines without harming the environment. In fact, offshore gas pipelines can be up to 20 times cheaper for transporting energy than offshore electricity.
> Carbon pricing
In a carbon constrained business environment, natural gas, thanks to its low CO2 emissions per unit of energy, is more competitive compared to other fossil fuels.
> Pricing
Competitive gas pricing is assured either by indexation to alternative energy products, which is still widely used, or by reference to hubs where gas-to-gas competition takes place. Prices set at hubs are becoming more common as price indices in contracts, which contributes to increased transparency.
> Global commodity
The development of the liquefied natural gas trade, in conjunction with the US’s rapid exploitation of its abundant reserves of gas from shales, has meant that far more LNG cargoes are now available to global markets than was envisaged just a few years ago, thus freeing up supplies for Europe.