In the December 2012 issue of Energy World (published by Energy Institute), John Baldwin, MD of CNG Services in the United Kingdom, expressed his thoughts about the future of natural gas in the UK, from which the following has been largely drawn.
Gas demand in the UK has been primarily met by indigenous gas production from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) but, in recent years, UKCS production has been declining and imports have been rising to meet demand. The demand for gas energy is likely to increase as other solutions will not have sufficient generation capacity. “Therefore, electricity will be generated by a small amount of nuclear, perhaps some coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and wind energy, with gas as the predominant supply.” Baldwin says gas alone has the capacity to meet demand on a windless day.
Biogas from anaerobic digestion makes a contribution but is limited in supply to around 10% of domestic customer gas demand.
In the face of transport-generated greenhouse gas emissions (20% of total UK emissions), the government supports the introduction of electric vehicles (EVs), but the shortfall in renewable energy generation means “it is likely that EVs will be adding to carbon dioxide emissions compared to petrol hybrid or low emission diesel cars.”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) forecasts increased reliance on oil and LNG imports to meet energy demand. The cost of both will likely impact on available funding for renewable energy development. In addition, Qatar LNG has a high carbon footprint.
Also, the UK has limited gas storage capacity to buffer importation pricing. What is does have is a well developed high pressure national grid that reaches 90% of the IK’s major logistics centres.
Baldwin points to a ‘lucky’ solution – the presence of phenomenal reserves of shale gas, first in the South Morecombe gas field (5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) produced to date), then in the deeper Bowland Shale with its estimated 200 tcf gas reserve. The British Geological Society is working to quantify the UK’s total gas reserve, possibly more than 1,000 tcf and aims to publish estimates in Q1 2013.
“With the availability of dual-fuel diesel-compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks, [shale gas and in-place transmission infrastructure] provides the UK with the opportunity to shift transportation of trucks and buses onto CNG, saving in oil import costs and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by around 20,” Baldwin points out.
In December 2012, the DECC lifted suspension on shale gas exploration. See Press Notice 2012/164 – New Controls Announced for Shale Gas Exploration.