Is LNG or pipeline gas more carbon-intensive? The answer may surprise you

carbon emissions

Carbon-intensity of LNG higher than pipeline natural gas, but still well below coal for power generation

LNG accounts for only 10 per cent of total natural gas traded across the globe, yet its rate of growth is almost twice as fast as pipeline gas, making it an important part of the portfolios of major oil and gas companies, according to analysis from Wood Mackenzie.

But while the process of piping natural gas to market is relatively straightforward, the LNG value chain is more complex.

This is due to the relatively high energy – and consequently carbon – intensity associated with the liquefaction of natural gas and the requirement for any contaminating CO2 to be removed from feedstock gas.

When likening the emissions associated with typical pipeline and LNG projects (wellhead to FOB point) to carbon-intensive Canadian oil sands developments, Wood Mackenzie found the emissions of the former were relatively low while the latter ranked comparably.

However, making a direct comparison between LNG and pipeline gas isn’t entirely fair. One of the most important variables affecting emissions from an LNG project is the contaminant CO2 content of the feedgas – a high concentration of which can result in substantial additional emissions from venting.

With pipeline gas projects, it’s relatively rare for CO2 to be removed prior to transportation to market due to cost.

As such, the contaminating CO2 is then emitted when the natural gas is burnt in the consuming market and therefore is not considered part of the upstream emissions.

While the levels of carbon emissions associated with LNG production are significantly higher than those for pipeline gas projects, it is still considerably less carbon intensive from a lifecycle emissions perspective than coal, its main fossil fuel competitor in the power sector, according to Wood Mackenzie.

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