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A bridge to a decarbonised future

Wed 15 May 2019 by John Snyder

A bridge to a decarbonised future

LNG is not the 'silver bullet' for decarbonisation, but it can provide a bridge to a zero carbon energy future, says John Snyder

With the 2020 presidential elections right around the corner, Washington Governor Jay Inslee is making headlines by voicing his opposition to an LNG plant at the Port of Tacoma and a methanol plant in Kalama in the state.

The proposed Tacoma LNG project will produce LNG from an existing natural gas pipeline, store LNG, and send-out LNG from the site as ship fuel, trucked LNG, or be regasified as supplemental winter supply to the state’s gas distribution system. In total, the Tacoma LNG facility will have nameplate liquefaction capacity to produce 950,000 litres of LNG per day for marine and land-based transportation fuel.

Speaking to the press, Governor Inslee said he could no longer in “good conscience” support the construction of either of the projects. In a crowded field of potential Democractic candidates that would oppose President Trump in November 2020, Governor Inslee is trying to define himself as the climate change candidate.

“In the early days of both projects, I said they could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we transition to cleaner energy sources, but I am no longer convinced that locking in these multidecadal infrastructure projects are sufficient to accomplishing what's necessary,” said the governor.

“The impacts of climate change are already coming to bear and scientists are saying that unless we reduce emissions by half over the next decade, we will reach an irreversible tipping point. There are emerging technologies that could make renewable gas a viable source of energy,” he continued.

As two major UN-backed reports have shown over recent weeks, the tipping point is, as Governor Inslee said, drawing ever closer, and action must be taken now. That is exactly why foregoing a bridge fuel like LNG for 'emerging technologies' that 'could' produce a silver bullet for decarbonisation at an undetermined point in the future does not seem to be the most sensible strategy.

Globally, through the IMO, commercial shipping is working on its own strategy to reduce CO2 emissions per transport work on average by at least 40% by 2030, as compared to 2008 levels, and total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008.

LNG has a role to play in cutting GHG emissions from ships.

In addition to the long-term GHG reduction strategy, international shipping has already moved to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through adopting mandatory measures, such as the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and IMO 2020 sulphur cap, both of which could well prompt increased use of LNG as a marine fuel.

A politician flip-flopping on an issue is not surprising, but the Governor’s stance is not practical. Waiting for the possibility of something better to emerge is just as good as doing nothing.

LNG is the cleanest fossil fuel, reducing sulphur oxides and particulate matter by nearly 100%, nitrous oxides by 90% and CO2 emissions by 20%. Abundant and inexpensive, LNG is the cleanest fuel to meet the world’s growing energy needs now, reduce the global footprint by displacing more carbon-intensive fuels and provide a bridge to a decarbonised energy future.

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