Global Natural Gas Perspectives

Nakicenovic N, Gritsevskii A, Grubler A, & Riahi K (2000). Global Natural Gas Perspectives. International Gas Union (IGU), Office of the Secretary General, Denmark and IIASA, Austria (October 2000)

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Abstract

The provision of adequate energy services is a prerequisite for further social and economic development in the world. This is a formidable challenge for the 21st century. Median demographic projections indicate that the global population will increase to ten billion by the end of the 21st century. At the same time, an important priority is to improve the quality of life for many now excluded from the commercial economy and commercial provision of energy services. It is estimated that about two billion people do not have access to commercial energy. Thus, some six billion people will need to be .connected. to the global energy system during the 21st century, a number equal to the current global population. Natural gas and other energy gases can make a substantial contribution to fulfilling this challenge during the 21st century. The objective of this paper is to assess long-term global natural gas perspectives, the opportunities that they offer and the challenges that exist in view of competing alternative energy options. These long-term perspectives are intended to help set the stage for energy policy decisions to be made over the next several years.

The most recent findings indicate that perceptions about global methane resources have changed drastically. Natural gas is much more abundant around the world than was estimated just a decade ago. In fact, new discoveries have by far outpaced increases in global consumption. Resources of conventional and unconventional gas continue to be revised upwards. In addition, the more speculative occurrences of natural gas, such as methane hydrates (clathrates), are truly vast and, if ever commercially exploited, could supply any conceivable future energy demands for centuries to come. This study documents the most recent findings about global hydrocarbon resources and highlights the potential future role of natural gas and other energy gases, such as hydrogen, that can be produced from methane, the main constituent of natural gas.

The global energy system has evolved during the last two hundred years from a reliance on traditional energy sources based first on coal, then oil and more recently on increasing shares of natural gas. Other energy sources play a smaller role by comparison. This has resulted in a substantial "decarbonization" of the global energy system, namely, the reduction of the amount of carbon per unit energy or carbon-intensity of energy. The study describes this historical transition from a carbon-intensive to less carbon-intensive energy structure and assesses possible future developments and their implications for natural gas.

Natural gas is the only hydrocarbon source of energy that could both lead to further decarbonization in the world and to a reduction of the many adverse impacts energy use has on the environment and human health. Furthermore, natural gas could be the bridge to carbon-free energy sources, such as solar or fusion energy, or even hydrogen extracted from the vast clathrate resources. Decarbonization of methane from clathrates, and other gas sources in general, will require the development of new technologies for carbon sequestration and storage. This study reviews some of the innovative schemes that could be developed in the future to produce carbon-free energy gases and other energy carriers such as electricity.

Thus, natural gas appears to be ideally suited to provide a bridge from the current energy system to the new era of more environmentally sound energy systems. It can help achieve two important energy goals for the 21st century . supplying the energy services needed for social and economic development and reducing adverse impacts on the environment at all scales. This, however, requires the emergence of large-scale interconnected energy grids throughout the world and especially in Eurasia where the largest increases in energy services are expected. Such a development implies a drastic energy-geopolitical shift. This study assesses the possibility of new energy grids and various implementation strategies that could lead to lower carbon intensities in the world, and lower adverse environmental impacts of energy at all scales.

Thus, natural gas holds great promise as an energy source of choice for the 21st century. It is the cleanest of all the hydrocarbon energy sources, it has high conversion efficiencies and it is likely to be available for a very long time to come. The challenge over the next several years will be to translate this promise into practice.

Item Type: Other
Research Programs: Energy (ENE)
Transitions to New Technologies (TNT)
Environmentally Compatible Energy Strategies (ECS)
Bibliographic Reference: International Gas Union (IGU), Office of the Secretary General, Denmark and IIASA, Austria (October 2000)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:12
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2016 10:44
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/6113

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