LNG at the Crossroads: Its Value and Sustainability

published Feb 09, 2023
2 min read

As the war in Ukraine continues to disrupt the global energy market, conversations around the potential of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have intensified. The question many people are asking is whether LNG is sustainable in terms of its environmental impact, affordability, and reliability. In other words, is it a worthy substitute for coal and fuel oil? This article seeks to respond to this concern by exploring the value and sustainability of LNG.

What is LNG?

Liquefied natural gas (LNG), as you can deduce from the name, is natural gas (a fossil fuel) in liquid form. Natural gas liquefies at -162ºC (-260ºF) to become a clear, colorless, odorless, and non-toxic liquid. LNG is used to provide heat in homes or to generate electricity. It is also cleaner and more sustainable transport fuel than oil and coal, especially for heavy-duty road transport and marine vessels.

Why is natural gas liquefied?

Gas fields are located far away from energy consumers. Distributing natural gas via pipelines is, therefore, either too expensive or too impractical. That’s why the gas needs liquefaction to make it easy and safe to transport by road or sea and later to store in storage facilities. Upon liquefaction, natural gas reduces in volume by more than 600 times, which explains why it’s easier to ship and store. The LNG is then converted back to gas in regasification plants before being piped to residential areas and industries.

What Is The Value Of LNG For Our Society?

Governments around the world are signatories to the Paris Climate Accords, an agreement that seeks to drive the world toward carbon neutrality. The shipping industry is under pressure to decarbonize by shifting to renewable energy sources from unsustainable fossil fuels. But because renewable energy sources such as solar and wind don’t have the capacity or infrastructure needed to support the global energy market.

LNG is playing a vital role as a transition fuel as energy stakeholders work towards testing, commercializing, and scaling renewable energy sources.  LNG has the lowest total emissions of all fossil fuels, meaning that its adoption is a step in the right direction with regard to a zero-emission future.

LNG Sustainability: Impact on the Environment

Natural gas has over the recent past contributed significantly to reduced carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur emissions in our industries and transport sector. Its total carbon emissions are about 45-50% less than coal and more than 30% less than fuel oil. The notable environmental footprint of LNG is low levels of methane emissions and almost negligible carbon emissions.

In 2021, the US power sector attained the lowest carbon emission levels in 25 years, all thanks to the increased adoption of LNG. LNG also produces insignificant amounts of soot, nitrogen oxide, dust, mercury, fumes, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants.

LNG Sustainability: Impact on the Economy

Global LNG projects are directly supporting thousands of jobs around the world. API estimates that LNG will create almost half a million jobs in the US alone by 2040, injecting $73 billion into the U.S. economy in the process. That’s on top of providing more revenue streams for local and state governments through taxes and export earnings. LNG is also more cost-effective than its alternatives, so it’s improving household disposable income and household purchasing power for many people around the world.

LNG Sustainability: Cost Effectiveness

LNG burns relatively cleaner than propane and diesel, which means fewer impurities that impact fuel flow in generators. Generators that run on LNG are, therefore, low maintenance compared to diesel generators and propane engines. They don’t require re-conditioning or polishing every 5 months as is the case with propane or diesel generators. Also, unlike propane, LNG doesn’t have impurities such as ethane, butane, or pentane, all of which are known to lower the life of an engine over time.

That aside, investment and installation costs for LNG generators (lower-kW generators) are significantly low-cost compared to larger-kW diesel generators. These factors make LNG a lot more pocket-friendly for consumers compared to diesel and propane.

LNG Sustainability: Availability

In 2020, The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the country had in excess of 2,926 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of dry natural gas. That is enough dry natural gas to last the country for about a century if energy consumption rates remain constant within that timeframe. There also are unproved natural gas reserves.

That’s not all. According to Global Data, the global liquefaction capacity is expected to rise by 11.5 percent AAGR from 464 mtpa in 2021 to 824 mtpa in 2026. This growth will be led by the US, Australia, Malaysia, Qatar, and Indonesia.

Bottom line: LNG is available and in abundance for many years to come.

Recognizing the Key Players in LNG

LNG is fueling sustainability efforts around the world in a big way. The evidence of this fact is the sheer number of awards that leaders of LNG businesses have received over the last decade. AG&P City Gas, for example, under the leadership of Joseph Sigelman, earned the “2022 Energy Company of the Year” award in last year’s Economic Times Energy Leadership Awards. This was in recognition of the company’s operational excellence in pioneering clean non-renewable energy, especially in Southern and Northwestern India.

ConocoPhillips is another LNG company that won an award recently for its sustainability efforts. The company received the 2019 Energy Globe National Award for its role in championing energy sustainability projects. Last but not least, Total was ranked among BloombergNEF’s top 3 energy companies in the world for its efforts toward reaching United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All these rewards are an indication of a thriving LNG sector.

Final word

LNG is cleaner, affordable, more reliable, and more accessible than most of its alternatives. It has earned its place as an energy major, a transition fuel, and even a key part of the future of global energy.