Natural gas: riding the green tsunami
Marcelo Martínez Mosquera advises the Chairman of the Techint Group in matters concerning energy, and here discusses the advantages and challenges of natural gas in the energy transition.
Marcelo Martínez Mosquera, Energy Adviser to the presidency of the Techint Group, examines the pros and cons of natural gas use in the world and in Argentina and looks at the role played by this fuel in the energy transition.
Martínez Mosquera is a seasoned expert with decades of experience in the energy world, enabling him to take a global geopolitical perspective of certain key concepts.
Going green. “Renewable energies, such as windmills, have been providing us with power for the last 2,000 years. The problem is how much electricity renewables can provide us with at this point in time, given the context of humanity’s needs as it steers a course towards going totally green.”
The role of gas. “In the last hundred years, our economic development has been driven exclusively by fossils fuels. Now, because of the amount of CO2 emissions going into the atmosphere, in the long term, natural gas can replace coal, which emits 850 kg of CO2 for each megawatt/hour, whereas natural gas-only emits 350/360 kg/MWh. The oil comes somewhere in between.”
"A coherent policy allowing us to move towards decarbonization at world level would prioritize the use of natural gas from now on, fully eliminating coal in electricity generation."
The dilemma of timing and intensity. “Our economies are based on oil and natural gas, and now we are calling into question the virtues of coal, natural gas and oil because of their CO2 emissions. We are taking the decision to go green, but we still don't have the replacement energy sources ready: wind, solar, possibly nuclear, and also the much-vaunted carbon capture and storage process. This is an issue of timing and intensity, and currently, there is no possibility—at least during this decade—of eliminating coal, oil and natural gas from the equation. So we should look to the future and see how we can use gas as a vehicle or bridge fuel towards this transition.”
The environmental risk. “If the world continues to put pressure on fossil fuels and we still don’t have anything to replace them with, we are headed straight for a pricing catastrophe or even an energy crisis. Those studying the problem in detail, even when acknowledging CO2 emissions and all the damage they are causing, can only offer solutions measured in decades.”
"Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, is taking the objectives defined by the G20 countries to transform them into concrete proposals for each area, such as heating, electricity, etc."
Gas-fueled cars. Natural gas is a much better resource in terms of emissions, and in cities it’s certainly far healthier not to have to deal with the smog produced by gasoline and diesel. However, this requires a strong push, a plan supported by all sectors, and perhaps the introduction of penalties for naphtha and diesel emissions as an economic driver or incentive to use natural gas.”
Natural gas, an ally of the transition. “For me, natural gas truly is a marvel among fossil fuels as it is so beneficial in many ways. Its pricing structure is very reasonable both for electric cars and for electricity generation—but it’s also true that transporting it around the world has its attendant difficulties, as it has to be done at 160°C below zero, in the form of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), making it far more expensive at destination.”
“If we look at natural gas as the bridge to the energy transition, we shouldn’t forget that it’s very easy to talk about this for those countries with their own natural gas supply or easy access to it close by so that all they have to do is lay a pipeline. However, it’s a rather more complex issue for other countries that need to bring it in by ship, requiring calculations of another dimension.”
The potential of Vaca Muerta. “Argentina has resolved the issue, and could also resolve the issue for Chile and Brazil, with the appropriate investments. But if Argentina does not set the right parameters to attract these investments to Vaca Muerta at the scale needed, this won’t work. And, although record after the record is being broken every month in terms of natural gas and oil production, with outputs rising by 3% a month, or 5%... I'm talking about hikes of 100% or 200%, because there are sufficient reserves to achieve those numbers.”
"We all have to be in agreement: the government, private sector companies, the provinces owning these resources, and neighboring countries, so that together we can make the most out of Vaca Muerta, as it deserves."
Future in continuous movement. “Over the last thirty years, the pace of change in the global energy industry has been so phenomenal that we are racing to keep up. This was the case until 2020, when the green push, what’s being called the green tsunami against CO2 emissions, finally picked up in response to the declarations made by Xi Jinping and several CEOs of oil majors, particularly European companies. They unanimously pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, something that was unthinkable only a couple of years ago. Now we all need to be in continuous movement because there is a very lively debate about how we make this energy transition happen, and what it actually means. Living in the world of energy in times like these is a fascinating challenge.”