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Why natural gas is key in supporting more and cleaner energy

Energy producers have increasingly utilised natural gas to meet their goals of environmental sustainability and energy security.

By Shell Catalysts & Technologies on Oct 25, 2020

Natural gas is playing a greater role in the energy transition. Private and public sectors in various regions have increasingly utilised natural gas to meet their goals of environmental sustainability and energy security.

Natural gas offers many advantages. It is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon and, assuming operational best-practices, can play a key role across the global economy by acting as a partner with renewable sources to offer consumers reliable, flexible and cost-effective energy access.

Advantages of natural gas

1. Cleanest-burning hydrocarbon

Gas is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon and produces a fraction of the air pollution that coal does when used to generate electricity. Burning natural gas releases virtually none of the particulate matter that contributes to ground-level smog.

In China, coal to natural gas switching has led to a 78% improvement in Beijing’s winter air quality over the past five years. China imports of natural gas in the form of LNG have risen significantly in recent years, expanding this success into other regions.

Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from operations can lead to better environmental outcomes and support a more sustainable energy future. Many organisations across industries are focused on reducing emissions, and natural gas can provide an option for energy producers to meet their emissions targets.

Why is natural gas good? | Natural Gas

Title: {Natural Gas is Good for Me}

Duration {0.54}


{We use energy every day from the moment we wake up to our alarm clocks the minutes before we fall asleep. Learn how natural gas is supporting our world's growing demand for energy in a way that is reliable and sustainable. This video is presented as Kinetic Typography, meaning text on screen replicates what is said in the voice over in interesting and illustrative ways.}

[Voice Over]

{Each day, you wake up. You use the phone, the computer, transport. You use energy.}

[Animated Sequence]

{‘Each Day’ is displayed on a stylized calendar,

‘You Wake up’ is on the face of a digital alarm clock

‘You use the phone’ is swiped by a finger across a phone

‘The Computer’ is displayed on a laptop screen’

‘Transport’ is written on the side of a bus that moves to the right.

‘You Use Energy’ is displayed with cartoon lightning bolts to its sides.}

 [Voice Over]

{And as the world uses more energy, we need to provide power that is available and environmentally sustainable.}

[Animated Sequence]

{‘And as the world uses more energy’ is displayed over a globe with cartoon lightning bolts in the background

‘we need to provide power’ is displayed as hands enter the frame from the bottom

‘that is available and environmentally sustainable’ is displayed in the center of the page as pipes, plants and blue flames animate around it.}

[Voice Over]

{Producing one-tenth of the air pollutants as coal when burnt to generate electricity, natural gas can provide positive environmental and health benefits to our cities and towns.}

[Animated sequence]

{‘Producing one-tenth of the air pollutants as coal when burnt to generate electricity’ is displayed, a lightbulb is added to the end of ‘electricity’

‘natural gas’ is displayed down the side of cooling towers on a natural gas plant, a background of syk and tress with pipes at the bottom.

‘can provide positive environmental’ is displayed to the side of the gas plant

‘and health benefits’ rises up on the left inside a white medical cross.

‘to our cities and towns’ text is displayed on the right. Buildings and houses rise up from the background. }

[Voice Over]

{These benefits, coupled with natural gas’ nearly global reach, ensures that natural gas can play a key role in the energy mix, regardless of where you live.}

[Animated Sequence]

{‘These benefits’ displays with a tick above the text.

‘coupled with natural gas’ nearly global reach’ displays above an ocean with LNG tankers floating on it. ‘Natural Gas’ is written on the side of the main, largest tanker.

‘ensures that natural gas’ displays over a background of pipes, and a subtle map of the United States ‘Gas’ is accompanied by a blue flame

‘can play a key role in the energy mix’, displays ‘Key’ is written over a picture of a Key.

‘Regardless of where you live.’ The shot pulls back to display a globe with pipes covering it. The words display on the globe, and the LNG Tankers move around it.}

[Voice Over]

{Renewable energy is crucial to our future. But as they develop, and when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, natural gas can keep our lives powered reliably and sustainably.}

[Animated Sequence]

{‘Renewable energy is crucial to our future’ displays over a blue sky and green field. Solar panels and a bright sun to the right, wind turbines to the left.

 ‘But as they develop’ is displayed over a large cog in the middle of the field.

‘when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine’ is written in the center of the screen. A cloud moves in front of the sun and the wind turbines stop spinning.

‘natural gas can keep our lives’ displays, Gas, accompanied with a blue flame, and ‘our lives’ with hands either side.

‘powered reliably’ is pictured with the blue gas flame above it and arrows circling the word.

‘and sustainably’ is pictured with leaves around the word.}

2. An affordable source for electricity generation

In the U.S. market, natural gas is one of the cheapest sources of electrical power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2020. The report finds that natural gas and renewables are the primary sources of new electricity generation capacity through 2050 in the U.S., due to low natural gas prices and favorable costs for renewables.1

3. A source of blue hydrogen

Natural gas can be converted to clean-burning blue hydrogen using the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process. The CO2 that is produced in the process is captured and stored underground while the hydrogen can be used for heating, transportation or industrial purposes with no CO2 emissions.

Blue hydrogen production is needed while research is conducted to reduce the cost of more expensive green hydrogen production technologies, which produces hydrogen using renewable electricity sources such as solar or wind. Natural gas can be used as a transition fuel while cleaner alternatives continue to be developed and competitively commercialised.

4. A reliable source of energy in the short term

As renewable energy technologies like wind and solar continue to develop and improve, natural gas offers a cleaner and more affordable short-term solution to energy creation compared to coal. Not only do gas-fired power plants emit less pollutants than coal-fired power plants, but they can be faster and more efficient.2

Electricity generated from natural gas is not subject to fluctuation based on environmental factors like wind or sunlight availability. When there are dips in wind or solar power, a diverse mix of energy resources that includes natural gas can help to maintain a steady supply of electricity.

5. Widely available due to drilling and transport technology innovations

In addition to advances in drilling technology that are unlocking more natural gas resources, new transport technology is allowing natural gas to be liquefied at ultra-low temperatures and shipped in specially designed tankers. Shell has been a pioneer in liquefied natural gas (LNG) for more than 50 years, and continues to innovate and improve the technology behind LNG.

Learn more about Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ LNG expertise

Challenges for the natural gas industry

Although gas emits much less CO2 than coal when burned for electricity, this environmental benefit is reduced if high levels of methane are emitted. The gas industry must make its operations more efficient in order to limit leaks of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

In line with Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ mission to Make Every Molecule Matter, Shell has taken various steps to achieve this, including being a founding member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a voluntary partnership of interdisciplinary organisations committed to improving air quality and protecting the climate through actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.3

Shell has also set a target to keep methane emissions intensity, for both oil and gas, to below 0.2% by 2025. This target covers all Shell-operated upstream and integrated oil and gas facilities.

Shell Catalysts & Technologies is evaluating technologies and practices to address unintended and vented methane emissions in our operations. We work continuously to improve these methods in line with our mission to Make Every Molecule Matter.

For more information regarding Shell’s ongoing work to reduce emissions of methane, read the Managing Methane Emissions section of our latest Sustainability Report.

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