Natural gas better than coal to cut CO2 emissions?
Simon Henry, Chief financial officer at shell, claimed that gas-fired generators would be the cheapest and quickest way of plugging the gap in electricity supply as the UK closes nearly half its current power stations in the next ten to 15 years.
Expanding natural gas at the expense of coal is the fastest and most effective way to reduce CO2 emissions in the power sector over the next decade. Modern gas plants emit between 50 per cent and 70 per cent less CO2 than coal plants.
Undoubtedly, high efficiency natural gas-fired power stations can produce up to 70% lower greenhouse gas emissions than existing brown coal-fired generators, and less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of the coal-fired power stations using latest technology. The CO2 emissions from Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants are reduced relative to those produced by burning coal given the same power output because of the higher heat content of natural gas, the lower carbon intensity of gas relative to coal, and the higher overall efficiency of the NGCC plant relative to a coal-fired plant.
Because natural gas has been and still is a relatively cheap fuel, industry and governments have not been overly concerned about energy efficiency. With focus starting to shift and look at emissions, it is starting to be noticed. It still has a long way to go. There is a technology that has been available and used in North America called “Condensing flue gas heat recovery”. This technology is designed to increase the energy efficiency of natural gas and LPG appliances.
McKinsey in a consulting assignment describes gas as a clean, plentiful and relatively cheap form of energy. It challenges the idea that renewable forms of energy should be the primary way to cut emissions.
The supporters of renewable energy also acknowledge the fact that gas fired power plants produce less amount of greenhouse gases compared to coal or oil fired plants. The McKinsey report also talks about Europe’s own largely undeveloped shale gas resources that could meet the continent’s needs for 30 years based on current demand.
It is estimated that integrating carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology with gas fired power plants could cut emissions on gas-fired plants by 90 per cent if deployed, and that it would cost less when compared to the cost involved in installing wind or solar power plants to meet the same targets.