Home Business The heavy environmental bill of liquefied natural gas

The heavy environmental bill of liquefied natural gas

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Doing without Russian gas will be very expensive for Europe. In more ways than one. To be able to obtain supplies elsewhere, the countries of the European Union will have to pay the price and raise the stakes so that the cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) do not go to Asia.

Environmentally, the bill is also likely to be very heavy. Liquefied natural gas has a much lower carbon footprint than gas delivered by pipeline. It emits on average 2.5 times more CO2, estimates a study carried out by the firm Carbone 4. This is linked to transport, the distance from the deposits and the mode of extraction.

Energy-intensive production

“Switching from Russian gas in Europe to LNG from other countries could generate 10% to 20% additional greenhouse gas emissions”, says Alexandre Joly, head of the energy division of Carbone 4 and author of the study.

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Because to liquefy the gas, it must be cooled to around -160°C before it can be put in the tanks of the ships. On arrival at its destination, the LNG is then returned to the gaseous state. All these steps require a lot of energy.

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“To increase its imports of LNG, Europe will invest in new fossil infrastructures which should last for a very long time, because they will have to be made profitable”, adds Alexandre Joly. Each regasification terminal costs at least 2 to 3 billion euros.

Poor quality infrastructure

To this comparison between LNG and gas pipeline, there are however two major exceptions: Russian gas and Algerian gas. Even if they mainly arrive in France via large pipes, they have a significantly worse carbon footprint than the methane molecules arriving by sea from Qatar or Nigeria.

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The poor quality of installations and a lack of controls due to poor management are the cause of a higher number of methane leaks. “It is better to import LNG from Norway rather than network gas from Russia or Algeria”, emphasizes Alexandre Joly.

Bad results for the American shale

But the worst, in terms of CO2 emissions, remains American shale gas, which represents 80% of the production of the United States. You have to fracture the rock to extract the gas bubbles that are trapped there, and therefore expend more energy. This generates between 1.5 and 4 times more CO2 than conventional gas extraction. Between Norwegian or Dutch gas, and American shale gas, which are all three consumed in France, carbon emissions thus vary from 1 to 10.

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“Incorporating combustion emissions, the high end of the US LNG carbon footprint is equivalent to 85% of coal emissions for the same amount of energy consumed,” notes the Carbone 4 study.

However, there should be more and more imports of American shale gas. To the 25 billion cubic meters planned for this year will be added an additional 15 billion cubic meters, according to the agreement reached in March with the European Commission. And from 2023, the Americans claim to be able to deliver up to 50 billion cubic meters per year.

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