As energy demand rises in the coming decades, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that supplies of natural gas – along with renewables such as wind and solar – will see the biggest growth. Shell believes more use of cleaner-burning natural gas, especially in power generation, will be vital to building a sustainable energy system. Advanced technology is helping us develop new sources of natural gas, including some once thought too remote or too costly to access.
Cleaner-burning natural gas is abundant, with available resources equal to 250 years at current production levels, according to the IEA. It is also the fastest and cheapest route for many countries to reduce CO2 emissions in the power sector over the next 20 years and beyond. Natural gas emits around 50% less CO2 than coal when used to generate electricity, and significantly fewer air pollutants. Gas-fired power plants cost less than half as much to build as coal-fired plants. They can also increase power supply quickly to meet demand, making them ideal for combining with intermittent renewables such as wind or solar.
In 2012, for the first time, Shell expects to produce more gas than oil. Most of the gas Shell supplies is conventionally produced, but we are increasing production of natural gas that is trapped in densely packed rock deep underground, known as tight and shale gas. As our gas production grows, we are using advanced technologies and fresh approaches to develop resources and find ways to reduce our environmental impact.
The Shell-operated Corrib project in Ireland (Shell interest 45%) involves a conventional offshore gas field which could supply up to 60% of the country’s gas when production starts. The project has been delayed in the past because of the need to better address community concerns. But we have been working closely with our neighbours and local planning authorities to design a new onshore pipeline route. Part of the pipeline will run almost 5 km beneath a bay, using tunnelling methods designed to minimise impact on the environment. In 2011, we secured the necessary permits and began preparations for construction of the tunnel in which the pipeline will be laid. We are also conserving and storing the peat removed to lay the onshore section of the pipeline, for use in restoring the land once the project is complete.