Australian Natural Gas – A Solution to a Global Challenge

Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline, Western Australia. Credit: CC/Glen Dillon

Australia’s natural gas industry plays a significant role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and this contribution is often overlooked. The country’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports have the potential to save global emissions up to a quarter of their total annual domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

While producing natural gas also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, there is a net reduction in total emissions if one were to use natural gas in lieu of traditional carbon sources.

Australia’s latest National Greenhouse Gas Inventory confirmed this in recent comments from Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction that this equates to lowering emissions in importing countries by around 152 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide. This is principally due to actual and potential displacement of coal consumption in those countries, which amounts to quite a substantial global contribution from Australia. The 152 million tonnes figure represents approximately 27% of Australia’s total annual emissions; more than the combined emissions from the Australian transport and waste sectors.

Another study by the CSIRO ( Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), an independent Australian federal government agency responsible for scientific research states that considerable climate benefits are possible when natural gas is used for electricity generation, especially in developing countries.

The oil and gas industry, especially the growing LNG sector of Australia should be recognised for the positive role it can play in the broader energy generation debate. Meanwhile, as the demand for energy grows globally, the process of substituting gas in lieu of more emission intensive fuels allows importing countries to satisfy this demand and still reduce overall emissions. LNG can cut emissions by around 50% when replacing other fuels.

In the context of developing countries across Asia, LNG helps to reduce air pollution. China proves to be an excellent case study for the role of natural gas in reducing greenhouse emissions and air pollution. Australia is the largest LNG supplier to China and the latter in turn, plays a key role in developments in the LNG context.

The gas sector is delivering meaningful action – and this also highlights that in light of reducing emissions, which is a global challenge it requires a global solution that can be best delivered through serious commitment. However, Australia will have to weigh the benefits obtained from its LNG projects with the costs since national emissions increased by 3.1m tonnes in the year up to March to reach 538.9m tonnes, a 0.6% jump on the previous year, leading many to question whether LNG is the miracle cure for Australia’s carbon addiction.

In the long-term, Australia’s LNG projects are expected to deliver decades of economic growth, jobs and exports including regional and global environmental benefits.

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