The dirty side of LNG

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The dirty side of LNG

Postby HVPA_research » Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:24 am

The dirty side of LNG
by PADDY MANNING, Sydney Morning Herald, August 29, 2009.
This up-to-date review of the liquefied natural gas industry on the WA Kimberley coast some doubts on the real environmental credentials of the LNG projects.
LNG is portrayed as ''clean and green''. The oil and gas industry says, depending on the technology used, LNG used for electricity lowers greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 70 per cent compared with coal.

The industry also claims that for every tonne of greenhouse gas generated here from LNG production, between 4.5 and 9 tonnes are avoided when the gas is used to replace coal-fired power elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region.

Save the Kimberley campaigner Hugh Brown, a former oil and gas industry consultant who moved from Melbourne to WA and took up nature photography, says such figures are "absolute rubbish".

A full life-cycle analysis by the International Energy Agency in 2002 found that once liquefaction, shipping and returning it to gas are taken into account, LNG reduces emissions by just 34 per cent compared with coal-fired power.

"Gas is a clean fuel when you just burn the gas," Brown says. "It is the liquefaction of that gas that becomes very, very greenhouse gas intensive."

And that's before other environmental impacts from LNG development are factored in, such as the potential for accidents and spills - reinforced this week after a well ruptured under the Thai-operated West Atlas oil rig, 250 kilometres off the Kimberley coast in the Timor Sea. At a meeting in Broome on Wednesday, Brown told a federal parliamentary inquiry into the impact of climate change on coastal communities, that the West Atlas rig could leak 3000-9000 barrels a day for the next seven weeks.

It should be stressed that the WA LNG industry is based on traditional natural gas deposits exploited from a small number extremely expensive off-shore gas rigs. What would a full life cycle analysis reveal about the Queensland and NSW LNG projects that will be based on non-conventional coal seam methane gas? Here we are talking about thousands of small gas wells spread along the proposed interstate gas pipeline with LNG conversion plants at both ends in Gladstone and Newcastle. These gas wells will be located mostly on private land now used for agriculture. Each gas well must have an access road, a pipeline connection and sometimes a diesel generator. An example of a fully-developed gas field can be seen here. Coal seam methane wells also produce huge quantities of toxic salty water that somehow needs to be disposed off. What would be the full environmental cost of this new industry?
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