Andreas Thanos

North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB)

What Gas is Already Doing (and Still Can Do) to Reduce Emissions

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What Gas is Already Doing (and Still Can Do) to Reduce Emissions

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What Gas is Already Doing (and Still Can Do) to Reduce Emissions

Andreas Thanos, a gas policy specialist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and advisory council member of the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB), spoke to Energy.Media about the role of natural gas in reducing global carbon emissions. Andreas explains how switching to gas has made North American and European economies less carbon-intensive and calls for making similar changes on a global scale – especially in Asia, where energy demand is growing and coal accounts for a larger share of the energy mix.

In this episode, Andreas talks about how gas has already helped bring carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions down and how it can continue to do so:

  • The United States, Canada, and Europe have reduced energy consumption in recent years, while also replacing many coal-burning power plants with gas-burning generation facilities. This switch has significantly reduced the carbon intensity of their economies, and it shows that swapping coal for gas is an effective way to reduce emissions.
  • The shift to gas is not nearly as advanced in other regions of the world. This is especially true of Asia, which continues to rely heavily on coal-powered generation. At the same time, Asian energy demand and consumption levels are rising – and as a result, so are emissions and carbon intensity levels. Some Asian countries are working to counter this trend by supporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports.
  • Hydrogen is often touted as a clean fuel that can help resolve the climate crisis, but it has serious drawbacks. On the one hand, some hydrogen production methods contribute to CO2 emissions. On the other hand, switching to hydrogen would probably require major investments in new distribution systems or upgrades to existing distribution systems.

Thank you, Peter. Hello, everyone. Before I continue with my presentation, I would like to read my disclaimer. Having worked for the state of Massachusetts, I want to I’m not here as a representative of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I’m here, as someone who has worked extensively both in the domestic markets and the international markets have provided advice and guidance in both primarily international markets. So any views of that present here are solid my views they do not represent any views of the current or previous employer center client clients. They are based on my understanding and experience with international markets and the National US market. Also the materials that are present here, please do not consider them as advice for investment or policy therefore discussion, because I’m looking at the realities. And based on what I understand the markets are, I will solicit input in discussion later on. Without let’s let’s see why I picked this topic natural gas. According to the Energy Information Administration, the federal government, natural gas is the only fuel that produces as little as 53 kilograms of co2 per mmbtu. If you recall, about 12 years ago, in his first the State of the Union address, then President Obama called natural gas as the bridge fuel to a cleaner energy mix. And it continues in its role based on those statistics that you’re seeing on your screens. As the United States economy is growing, we have reached the point we reached about close or a little over a decade ago, where our emissions have started going down. And this is significant, because we have managed to control how much of co2 co2 we are emitting into the atmosphere. And that has been achieved primarily through the use of natural gas, thanks to fracking, we are have abundant resources in this country. And we can convert our oil and coal generation to natural gas, therefore, thereby reducing our emissions in the atmosphere. And if this information, this statistic is not sufficient.

You can see how the same time although our energy consumption has been growing steadily and slowly, our CO2 emissions have been reduced. This is this is information for the United States Department of Energy. And lastly, again, if that’s not sufficient, you can see their reduction, their per capita co2 emissions, we definitely consume a lot of energy for our phones, our TVs, our computers, our communications, yet, per capita per person, we have succeeded in reducing our energy consumption and thereby reducing our emissions. This information about the United States is important. Because while we, over here, and in Europe, you will see later on, have managed to reduce our co2 emissions. This is not the case with the rest of the world. And all of the global picture of co2 emissions looked something like this, with a little blip around 2008 2009, which was an economic crisis, co2, energy consumption continues to grow. And this information according to BP, this chart, according to BP, shows exactly what I’m talking about, with the exception of 2008 2009 period where there was the economic crisis, we have continued to grow our energy demand and to 2019. The energy mix global energy mix comprised oil, coal, natural gas, those are the three primary fuels, of course with nuclear, Hydro and renewables play a lesser role. And this is very important, because as I showed you in the earlier slide, natural gas is the least co2 producing fuel over three is oil, coal and natural, natural gas. What does this do? As a result, the United States Canada and orange and the European Union in grey have pretty much flattened their co2 emissions. However, the rest of the world has not. Why is that? Because there is a significant part as you saw in the previous slide, of coal consumption, where does this coal consumption come from? comes from from Asia. You can see the in the blue bars, you can see our consumption of energy. And in the orange line, you can see the co2 emissions, you can see that although we have managed to keep the co2 emissions at the lower levels relatively than Asia, co2 emissions are much higher in relation to the energy they consume. And why is that? Here? I think it is the proof or the explanation of, if you look at the right bars on both charts, 2018 and 2019, you will see that the biggest chunk of energy consumption in Asia is based on coal, that is a gray area on those bars. Yes, the United States and Europe still use coal but but it’s so much less. And we have managed to maintain our co2 emissions lower because we have reduced our coal. Natural gas has helped us maintain those lower levels of co2 emissions. And we can safely say that we are reaching a point where we are not the culprits of the global climate change. We are all worried about Asia and primary China into the other developing economies are still relying heavily on coal. And coal, as we said earlier, reduce produces a significant amount of co2. As we move forward, there’s a global predicament, specifically in Asia, because I think my personal view is that Asia is the market that we need to approach with our natural gas in order to achieve the reductions in co2, the reductions in global warming and reach our goals of cleaner air. The problem is that it’s not necessarily a problem. But the situation right now in Asia is and I heard that recently, from a friend who deals with the Asian Development Bank, is that a lot of generation plans in Asia, in Asia are aging.

They’re primarily coal and oil. And the question that arises now is, how are they going to be replaced? Will they be replaced with coal plants, your coal plants? Will they be replaced with natural gas burning plants? Will they be replaced with renewables? Actually, Vietnam recently started expanding its use of solar power for generation and rooftop solar. But, again, Vietnam right now is a smaller economy in regards if you compare it to India and or China. And as the economist nature grow, the demand for energy is going to grow even more. And the question again, was earlier, how are these aging plans replaced? We have set several goals globally, not just the United States, the future this new administrators, we will rejoin the Paris Agreement. So we are going to join the very large number of countries in again, trying to reach the goals of reducing co2 emissions and the minus two Celsius. There are no real alternatives to natural gas as of yet. And if we really want to reduce to achieve those reductions, we need to even if we do not increase our natural gas consumption in the United States, we need to increase our production of natural gas in the United States in order to export and help those economies. Recently, Vietnam entered into agreements with schneer Vietnam has started planning and developing gas fired LNG fired generation. The same thing with India. India, as a matter of fact, is I’m working with a group in the United States that deals with Indian government as it is developing rules and regulations for the expansion of the natural gas system, both imports, interstate distribution, and local distribution rules and markets. Bangladesh, the Philippines all are looking into expanding or starting LNG imports. In fact, Philippines as the government affiliate in Philippines is approving three or four new projects As the country is that country as well, is trying to wean itself off of coal. And I mentioned the countries of India, Thailand. I didn’t mention Thailand, but they’re mentioning it now. Thailand, the Philippines, because I’ve worked with folks from these countries. And we had a lot of discussions on how you develop the gas markets, how do you develop the natural gas infrastructure? So having said, what I said about the international markets is how we can I guess, get a bigger buck, bang for our buck in international markets? What are the alternatives for us in the United States? Everybody’s, is everybody. But the majority of politicians now on one side are hoping for a greener environment and green and energy mix. But is it doable? What is the greener energy mix? imply hydrogen, hydrogen has been touted in the United States and Europe as the fuel that will bring the solution to our global climate change problems. There are three types of hydrogen you’ve heard again, if you’re if you’re not really into hydrogen, there’s the the gray, the blue, and the green hydrogen, the gray and blue hydrogen are produced is produced from natural gas and sometimes from clinical. But the difference is that in the gray hydrogen, the co2 is released in the atmosphere from the process while in the in the blue hydrogen, the co2 is captured, captured and injected into the earth. The green hydrogen is pure electrolysis, with oxygen released into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen remaining as a fuel to be transported, however, and you are not going to hear much about it yet, even though every time I get a chance, in my discussions with colleagues, both domestic and foreign, I bring it up hydrogen are the safe fuel yet we haven’t figured out what the safe the safe level in the mix that will be in order to prevent substantial cracking fatigue and fracture of the existing distribution system. Or if we need to actually change the distribution system, which then creates financial concern.

So is hydrogen ready to replace methane? natural gas? My personal view is no. So I will take hydrogen out of the equation. So what else is there out there? Some cities in the United States and Washington state have tried to ban natural gas Berkeley’s was the first one. And it succeeded. Brookline Massachusetts is a small, fairly small town suburb of Boston, you might think we might call it that ban natural gas in a town hall meeting, where 100 people voted to buy natural gas. Unfortunately, the town has about 30,000 registered voters and 100 voters affected the ban. It was stricken down before technicality borough Attorney General but the move is still there. And very recently, Washington State’s governor announced that he’s going to pursue a strategy of removing natural gas from existing and build buildings in the next 20 or so years. Will those work? If you look at the chart, if you go back to the charts that they brought up earlier in my presentation, you can get banned gas in California and Brookline. But it will not achieve anything in the grand scheme of things because the rest of the world will produce the energy and we want the rest of the world to learn from our technology and our role and our processes in order to maximize the benefits both for their economies and their welfare and for the climate. So thought those are alternatives that people have presented. The jury’s still out of that. Finally, and that I guess it’s Hail Mary shot if we cannot really bang gas in the spring in biomethane. That’s that’s, that’s another in my mind expensive undertaking that has been brought up. Recently in terms of natural gas consumption in the United States. There are varying the varying definitions of RNG depending on where it’s coming from the capital can be landfilled, landfills, farms, water sewer processing, and treatment plants. And, Michael, my question about that is who pays It’s fantastic. We develop technology, we clean it of impurity, naturalism, clean from the impurities, and we inject it into the system. The question is, who should be paying for it? Up until now we were following a policy of the polluter pays, under this new proposed r&g rng, strategies, it will be the end user that will be so anyone can pollute, throw the trash, allow the methane to seep into the environment, pay nothing. And when a gas customer is forced to buy RNG, renewable natural gas, then the town the facilities that created this methane gets a financial benefit. Is it equitable? The jury’s still out, and that’s up to you to make a decision.

So it’s a cost, the cost recovery issue, who pays does the polluter pay or does the consumer thing. And having said all that, I’m coming to my last final slide. So we all want a clean environment, not just for ourselves, for children and grandchildren. I was impressed that how clear clear the skies looked in March and April of 2020. Very few buses and trucks on the roads, very few airplanes in the sky. I don’t know if it was in my mind, or if if they actually the air was cleaner that we’re breathing. And we all want that to be with us on this planet for a long time. But we also have to consider what the costs are of any action that we will take. And we do not want to continue with energy poverty issue. Yes, there are still parts of this world where energy poverty where people cannot pay for their medication in order to stay warm in the winter. And we have to be careful in the energy mix that we choose going forward. Because we do not want to perpetuate the situation when a retiree has to decide between bread, medication, or freezing pipes. And that’s the economic cost that is very important. If we are going to replace global coal generating facilities with natural gas, at least there is the technology is similar. Some conversions oil, which is if you saw, if you remember the earlier side, global consumption of oil is is more more essentials of oil or consumed than coal. So if you’re converting, let’s say an oil burning facility to natural gas, the cost of the infrastructure is way less than building a brand new renewable renewables facility in order to develop renewable energy producing durable energy in your mix. So we have to take into consideration these. And the question that then is the final question is Where would the best investment be? It is no secret, the air that we breathe does not come from our neighborhoods does not come from our towns, it’ll come from our counties or, or our states, it’s global, the wind blows all over the planet. So we can be as clean as we can in the United States or in Europe. However, if you have a lot of cogeneration, a lot of co2 emitted in Asia, as I showed you in an earlier slide, then we haven’t achieved anything. We need to make sure that we invest in places that will provide us with a safer, not just financial investment, but with a safer process of cleaning our air into the atmosphere and the environment. And with that, I’m ready for any questions that you may have. Thank you very much for listening.

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