Energy News Today

What is Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), and how it impacts the climate

The EU is weaning itself off piped Russian gas by rapidly expanding imports of liquified natural gas, much of it fracked in the US. But what exactly is LNG? As liquified natural gas tankers carrying fracked US gas start to land in northern Germany, climate activists are calling it a major setback in the effort to limit global heating.

LNG is to compensate for lost Russian gas supplies, with four new terminals set to come online in Germany alone. But though touted as a short-term fix, many fear the gas is here for the long haul as the EU becomes the biggest LNG importer in the world.

With LNG creating almost 10 times more emissions than piped gas by one estimate, its rapid expansion will likely compromise climate targets, say climate researchers, who also reject claims that most LNG infrastructure is suitable for green hydrogen in the future. And while LNG imports are key to the European Union’s REPowerEU energy plan, analysts say they will not offer relief from the current Russian gas shortfall until after 2024. But to understand the potential climate risks associated with LNG, how exactly is it liquefied, transported and distributed?

What is liquified natural gas or LNG?

LNG is natural gas reduced to a liquid state (liquefaction) through intense cooling to around -161 degrees Celsius (-259 Fahrenheit). This liquid gas is 600 times smaller than the original volume and is half the weight of water.

The compressed fossil fuel, which is constituted almost wholly of methane — a potent greenhouse gas —, can be transported around the world by ship. After arriving at its destination, the cargo is regasified in a floating terminal and redistributed through pipelines.

But despite LNG’s export potential, the high cost of liquefaction and producing LNG has limited its market. In Germany, the estimated cost of building floating LNG terminals for imports to substitute Russian gas has doubled, due in part to higher operating and infrastructure costs.

The cooling, liquefying and transport processes, as well as the post-transport regasification procedures, also require a lot of energy. “Between 10-25% of the energy of the gas is being lost during the liquefaction process,” according to Andy Gheorghiu, a Germany-based campaigner and consultant on climate and energy policy.

What’s the climate impact of LNG?

A lot of energy is required to extract natural gas from a reservoir, to transport from the gas field to the LNG facility for processing, to chill gas to such low temperatures, and to hold it at that temperature before it is warmed and regasified following a long sea or train journey.

Methane loss across the supply chain risks also contributes to LNG’s high emissions. “Because of LNG’s much more complex production and transport process, the risks of methane leakages along the production, transport and regasification chain are simply much higher and therefore much more emissions-intensive,” said Gheorghiu.

In the end, LNG emits…

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2023-01-22 04:15:03

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