The world needs to find lower-carbon ways to produce and consume energy. At Shell, we believe natural gas has an important role to play in meeting that challenge.
Natural gas is abundant, versatile and cleaner-burning than coal. It makes up about half of Shell’s total production and is one of the few energy sources that can meet many energy needs: to generate electricity, heat homes, power industry, and fuel ships and trucks. According to the International Energy Agency, there are enough recoverable natural gas resources to last more than 200 years at current levels of consumption.
Natural gas can make an important contribution to the energy transition. It produces around half the CO2 emissions of coal when burnt to generate electricity. The production and use of both coal and natural gas for power generation emits methane,which contributes to global warming. The use of gas for power will have less global warming impact than coal over a 100-year time frame as long as the total methane emissions of the gas supply chain do not exceed 3%. Most independent studies demonstrate that the emissions from the gas value chain are well below this level. (See Managing methane emissions).
There is also potential to significantly reduce local air pollution by replacing coal with natural gas in power generation. This is already happening in Beijing, for example, where steps are being taken to switch coal-fired power plants to natural gas. Modern natural gas plants emit less than one-tenth of sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates, and heavy metals compared with coal. We work with a number of governments to support the creation of infrastructure needed to use gas as an energy source – such as liquefied natural gas import terminals.
Renewable energy will play a key role in the transition to a lower-carbon future. Yet, some renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, are intermittent due to the current absence of large-scale energy storage. They need a partner, such as natural gas, to maintain a reliable flow of electricity. A natural gas-fired power plant takes much less time to start and stop than a coal-fired plant.
Natural gas can also be used in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce CO2 emissions. CCS could remove up to 90% of CO2 emissions from power generation and play a key role in supporting the shift to a lower-carbon future. (See Carbon capture and storage).