José García Sanleandro
President
Mexican Association of Natural Gas (AMGN)

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Is Natural Gas Transitional or a Base Energy?

By José García Sanleandro | Tue, 07/05/2022 - 15:00

Sustainable development is, without a doubt, a concern for all of us who inhabit this planet. While it is necessary to get to work to meet our needs, we must do so without compromising the resources found in our ecosystems for future generations.

To that end and for several years now, we’ve heard about the transition to other sources of energy as a fundamental piece in the efforts of countries to reduce emissions and, thereby, contribute to the fight against climate change. In this context, is the relevance of natural gas transitory or is it possible for it to coexist with clean energies?

For example, the United Nations (UN) sets specific objectives in its 2030 Agenda to help curb global warming and with it, the effects on the climate that we are already experiencing. In this regard, Sustainable Development Goal 7 talks about guaranteeing access to affordable, safe, sustainable, and modern energy, which is precisely what natural gas offers.

Various debates have been held on the benefits of using renewable energies as the only source of electricity generation, mainly due to the elimination of polluting emissions that it offers and that, without a doubt, is fundamental in the efforts to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement, but we still have limitations that technology is trying to solve, such as intermittency of service, for which I am sure that at some point we will have operationally and financially viable ways to store energy from renewable sources, but we are not there yet.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) states that hydrocarbon consumption will continue for the next 20 years, which gives us an overview of the importance natural gas will continue to have in many countries’ energy grids.

That’s because the subject of natural gas goes far beyond electricity generation. Of course, in the not-too-distant future, electricity will come mainly from renewable sources, such as wind or solar, but what about the energy required by industries or even transportation?

Natural gas is a fuel with many environmental benefits, among which is that it does not emit solid particles in its combustion. Most industries are moving toward natural gas, leaving aside diesel or liquefied petroleum gas, since it is a great option to keep their production costs under control, where fuel is an important variable.

If we had to talk about the limitations of using natural gas, I would say that countrywide access is one of the main ones but, just as technology is working on the storage of energy from renewable sources, it has also achieved great advances to make natural gas accessible in hard-to-reach areas through the use of conventional gas pipelines. Great alternatives are the so-called virtual gas pipeline or natural gas on wheels, which consists of transporting compressed or liquefied natural gas (CNG/LNG) by tank truck. CNG or LNG are excellent alternatives for supplying energy in remote places where gas pipelines do not reach.

On the other hand, we have Natural Gas for Vehicles (NGV) technology that is a very efficient and clean alternative for all segments of the population. For example, the owners of public transport units taxis, vans, trucks or passenger buses can obtain fuel that is almost 40 percent cheaper than gasoline, which is a considerable saving.

Mexico has a great opportunity to develop this market since Colombia and Argentina have a large number of vehicles that run on this energy, while in our country there are around 57 stations to serve just over 54,000 vehicles, which represent barely 1 percent of the total circulating nationwide.

Additionally, if 5,000 cars were converted to NGV, 40 million tons of polluting emissions that are related to global warming would be reduced. Also, 20 fewer trees would be required to absorb these gases that are so harmful to the environment.

Undoubtedly, there is still much work to be done, but we are on our way to finding the perfect formula so that all types of energy can coexist and thus achieve sustainable development for the benefit of all. Natural gas is the perfect ally in achieving this goal.