The Gas Age ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

The New York Times has an article by Andrew Revkin of all people revelling in the shale gas boom in the US and predicting it will go global (I suspect that scaling up shale production will be harder than the industry's boosters are claiming while resistance to the environmental damage will continue to grow - but we'll have to wait and see about that - in the meantime the "natural gas cliff" guys have mercifully gone quiet) - The Gas Age.

The Energy Information Administration has released “ World Shale Gas Resources,” an important commissioned report providing an assessment of how much natural gas is locked in shale deposits in 14 regions around the world. (Here’s its overview of shale gas in the United States.) Here’s a map of the surveyed regions:

The report includes some pretty remarkable numbers from countries that currently have limited domestic gas options, including China and quite a few western European nations that have been held somewhat hostage by Russia. Its publication comes in sync with a disturbing article in The Times noting how much crop production, including tropical staples such as cassava, is being diverted to making biofuels. ...

The first reply came from Ausubel, a Rockefeller University scholar who long ago predicted the ascendancy of gas as part of humanity’s move away from carbon and toward hydrogen. He stressed that more conventional gas deposits are already changing the energy game:
While the shale gas matters a lot for the overall outlook and industry confidence, my money remains on the “clean” deep gas, both offshore and continental, as the bigger source of supply delivered over the long run. Discoveries and technologies keep appearing. See [this link] – a rig for 3,000 meters of water and 10,000 meters of seafloor, delivered.

Google the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields off Israel.

I sent him this followup question:
Between the clean gas and the shale options, though, is it fair to say this is “The Gas Age”? Are we going to move off the “coal rung” of Loren Eiseley’s heat ladder more quickly?

Ausubel’s answer:
Yes, we live in a world of Methane Abundance. Recognition is diffusing

Australian energy minister / fossil fuel industry cheerleader Martin Ferguson is predicting a gas age in Australia too - Australia entering an “LNG age”: Ferguson.
Federal Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has addressed LNG project issues, including overseas demand, taxation reform and skills shortages, at the APPEA 2011 Conference and Exhibition in Perth.

“If we are to meet the twin drivers of increasing demand and lower emissions, we are entering the LNG age,” Mr Ferguson said in his speech.

He noted that the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan could lead to increased demand for LNG over both the short and longer term, and said that Australia’s proposed and established projects would render the country well-placed to help meet this increase in demand.

One obstacle holding up the gas boom is a shortage of key resources, particular labour, which Wood Mackenzie says will put project timeframes under pressure Gas projects face cost crunch: Wood Mackenzie.
Australia's coal seam gas operations will have to work together to avoid cost overruns and meet tight project completion goals as key resources are in short supply, a Wood Mackenzie executive said.

"The fact that Australia is already producing 670 millions of cubic feet per day (mmcfd) demonstrates the proven materiality of Australian CSG plays," Wood Mackenzie's head of Australasia upstream research Craig McMahon said.

But with three projects BG Group's Queensland LNG, Santos' Gladstone LNG, and ConocoPhillip's Australia Pacific LNG – expected to go ahead, competition for a range of resources from rigs to workers, will mean projects will need to work together.

"To some extent, the projects are in it together. If one project timeline suffers, it could affect the others," Mr McMahon said.

BG and Santos have already sanctioned their projects, while APLNG is expected to do so this year, with completion dates seen from 2014 to 2015.

Bechtel Corp will manage LNG plant construction for all three projects, which are all are located in Australia's eastern Queensland state and, in some cases, occupy adjacent areas.

"Bechtel has been effectively charged with delivering 33 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of LNG capacity over effectively two years. That's a huge challenge," he said.

The Climate Spectator has a skeptical look at Minister Ferguson's stance on renewable energy - Clean out of time.
Sometimes politicians travel so much and speak to so many different audiences that it must be easy to forget what they should be saying, and to whom. Particularly if your responsibilities straddle multiple portfolios, such as those of Martin Ferguson, the Federal Minister for Resources, Energy (both brown and green), and Tourism.

Ferguson was in Abu Dhabi this week for the inaugural meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the second Clean Energy Ministerial, and for a visit to Masdar City – the ambitious project by the United Arab Emirates, the world’s most energy and emissions intensive states, to create a carbon-neutral metropolis.

Ferguson, speaking after Australia’s election to the council of IRENA, noted how wind and solar PV were predicted to deliver nearly one quarter of the world’s electricity needs by 2050, and spoke of Australia’s commitment to clean energy.

But if you wanted to know what he really thinks about clean energy and resources, and what he thought his audience wanted to hear, you needed to read his speech to a business breakfast the following day. No prizes for guessing that the focus was on coal, LNG and uranium, and Australia’s massive mineral exports. There was little more than a passing reference to “clean energy”, a brief mention of geothermal, and nothing on wind and solar.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency, the body charged with mapping out a blueprint of the world’s future energy needs if it is to meet its ambitious emissions reductions targets, was also in Abu Dhabi to present its inaugural Clean Energy Progress Report, the first detailed assessment of where the world is at in the transition to cleaner energy sources.

As report cards go, it barely rated a B minus. Despite apparent efforts by many countries to make significant investments in clean energy technologies, these are being overtaken by continued investment in fossil fuels. The IEA fears that the world is more likely than ever to miss its energy target – creating geopolitical, as well as financial and environmental risks – and is rapidly running out of time to introduce the sort of ambitious, long-term and predictable policies required.

If the world is going to meet its long-term emission reduction targets, the IEA estimates that it needs, at the very least, to reduce half its emissions from energy sources by 2050. We’re about a third of the way through the time frame allotted, and the growth in fossil fuels is still outstripping that of renewables; and the surge in incomes in emerging economies means that more people than ever want their own cars and to plug things into sockets and use more energy.

There are basically four options to meet the energy target – other than just to switch stuff off, which is clearly not going to happen. These options are: to clean up coal and gas production with carbon capture and storage; to use energy more wisely (energy efficiency); to use more renewables; or to use more nuclear. The IEA says it needs to be a mixture of the four, but none of these elements look like delivering without a step change in international policies.

Here is a summary of the IEA's assessment:

– Clean energy technologies are making clear progress globally, but fossil fuels continue to outpace them, mostly because they get far more in subsidies per year; $318 billion in 2010 versus $57 billion for renewables. The IEA says those fossil fuel subsidies need to be removed and governments need to introduce transparent, predictable and adaptive incentives for cleaner, more efficient energy options.

– Solar PV and wind power are achieving strong growth, thanks to favourable policies, but they need to maintain these trajectories so that the use of renewable energy doubles from current levels by 2020. However, the IEA says there are signs that policy support is weakening due to government austerity plans. It says that instead of eliminating successful policies, governments need to put in place dynamic schemes that respond to technology markets.

– While coal has been the fastest growing global energy sources in absolute terms for the past decade, there has not been anywhere near enough investment and deployment of carbon capture and storage, which it says is critical to achieve climate change goals. It says around 100 large-scale projects are needed by 2020, and 3,000 by 2050. There are currently just five that are operational right now. (Ferguson and other ministers on Friday announced they had agreed to do more to fast track CCS projects).

– Energy efficiency is progressing, but while some countries have proven to be very competent at switching to more efficient lighting, and introducing efficiency standards on fridges, there has been significant under-investment in the buildings and industry sectors, and little attention to other appliances. The IEA says energy efficiency can deliver around 38 per cent of the targeted emission reductions from the energy sector, making it the most important new fuel source of the future.

– Biofuels have shown steady growth, but still only represent 3 per cent of global road transport fuel consumption. They need to grow ten-fold – and be of the new generation, sustainable variety – to reach climate change targets in 2050.

– Electric vehicles are poised to take off, and global sales could reach 20 million by 2020. But this would still account for around 2 per cent of light vehicles, and fuel economy measures need to be ramped up rapidly to achieve a 50 per cent improvement by 2030.

– While nuclear capacity has remained nearly flat for the past decade, countries are currently constructing 66 nuclear reactors that should add 60 Gigawatts by 2015. However, the recent earthquake in Japan and resulting damage have led countries to review nuclear safety and investments across the board. As a result, nuclear expansion is likely to be slower than planned.

– An increased level of systems thinking is needed to integrate the broad range of individual clean energy technologies into the energy system. Increased attention and resources are required to expand smart grid pilot projects on a regional level.


Bob Wallace   says 12:39 AM

The Gas Age might be shorter than many think...

... wind power generators say they can now offer utilities long-term purchase power agreements (PPAs) at the same price as natural gas-fired power plants….

Projections of future growth in the industry and claims that grid parity with natural gas has largely been achieved have upended earlier fears that record low gas prices would punish the wind sector for years to come.

AWEA figures show that the average wind PPAs are now being priced at about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, the same price for energy procurements from a combined cycle natural gas plant. The group says wind is actually about 2 cents cheaper than coal-fired electricity, and more projects were financed through debt arrangements than tax equity structures last year, a possible sign that wind deals are winning more mainstream acceptance from Wall Street’s banks….


China’s Suntech has targeted 2015 for grid parity in global markets. In 2001, the average levelized price of solar electricity was 75 cents per kWh, according to Suntech spokesman Walker Frost. Solar electricity now costs less than 10 cents per kWh in some regions with abundant sunlight, he added. Suntech is reducing costs by using less expensive materials that are more abundant.

The price of wind and solar generation will continue to decrease.

The price of extracting natural gas may increase as additional environmental controls are implemented (methane escapes during fracking, for example). If we get smart and add a carbon charge then it's largely game over for NG except as a peaking generator.

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