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Fossil fuels for new energy worlds Natural Gas

An all-rounder Heading for green

To date, natural gas has been used primarily for heating and generating electricity – that will change in the future. That’s because natural gas can also demonstrate its benefits over other fossil fuels in terms of carbon footprint in the mobility sector and in tandem with renewable energies. Compared to oil, natural gas emits around a quarter less climate-damaging greenhouse gases – and even up to 35 percent compared to lignite and hard coal. At the same time, using natural gas contributes to clean air: Natural gas contains no aromatic compounds, considerably less sulfur, and burns with practically no particulate matter. In addition, natural gas can make a decisive contribution to solving the storage problem for renewables. Thanks to existing infrastructures and power-to-gas technologies, excess green electricity can be converted into renewable gas and stored.

1084.1 billion cubic meters of natural gas*

were transported around the world in 2016. Almost 70 percent of this amount reaches the customer via pipelines, mainly within Russia and Europe.

The global network covers approximately three million kilometers. (Source: International Gas Union/BP Energy Outlook 2017)

The rest of it - 329.8 billion cubic meters - was liquefied and shipped by LNG tanker. LNG stands for liquefied natural gas. Japan is by far the biggest importer of LNG. The industrial nation uses about one-third of the transported LNG volume. Australia could soon become one of the major LNG exporters. Many liquefaction terminals are currently under construction.

Protecting the climate

Natural gas is the fossil fuel with the lowest CO2 emissions. Due to its versatility, it can replace coal and oil in the fields of mobility, heating, energy and industry without any problem, or at least drastically reduce their climate-damaging use. Current studies have shown, for example, that a complete fuel switch from hard coal and lignite to natural gas in the electricity sector could reduce CO2 emissions by at least 40 percent.

CO2 Emissions from fossil energy sources

Fuel input H1 graphic Wintershall

Driving ahead with natural gas

Natural gas is ready for the mobility transition. A study by the Institute of Energy Economics (EWI) shows: Switching a fifth of the German vehicle fleet from gasoline and diesel to natural gas by 2030 would allow up to 20 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent to be avoided annually. That corresponds to the annual CO2 emissions of 2.5 million two-person households. Combined, natural gas-powered cars and buses emit up to 60 percent less CO2 than diesel. In addition, the gas-air mixture in a natural gas engine burns with practically no particulate matter. Gas in the form of CNG, LNG and renewable gases can score points for heavy transport – and also at sea! The 15 biggest ships in the world alone emit as many pollutants as 750 million cars, according to the environmental association NABU. Using LNG there could cut emissions by up to 90 percent.

Natural Gas Stations Graphic Wintershall

Filling station concept for the future

Scientists at the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) have developed a “multi-energy filling station” in Ulm that uses excess renewable electricity to produce hydrogen through electrolysis and – in a second step – to synthesize the natural gas substitute methane by adding CO2 from biogenic sources.

H2 service station picture Wintershall
© ZSW/Daimler AG