API Report Says US LNG 50% Cleaner Than Coal
A new study from the American Petroleum Institute (API) released July 9 says US LNG exported to China, Germany and India to displace coal for power generation produces 50.5% fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in all base case scenarios studied.
“This study underscores what we have known for quite some time – that US natural gas is a far cleaner option than coal for electricity generation, especially in key markets in China, Germany and India,” Dustin Meyer, API’s director of market development, said. “US LNG exports can help accelerate environmental progress across the globe, enabling nations to transition to cleaner natural gas to reduce emissions and address the global risks of climate change.”
The study was conducted by consultancy ICF and updates the results of life-cycle analysis of emissions from LNG conducted by the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in 2019 and NETL’s own update in 2019.
The ICF update looks at emission impacts from power generation in Germany, India and China and presents scenarios comparing different fuel sources for that power generation: natural gas (NG) produced in Australia, Mozambique and from the Marcellus and Permian basins in the US; natural gas pipelined from Russia; and domestically-produced or imported coal.
“The LNG and NG cases exhibit lower emissions in every scenario in comparison to coal,” the study says. “The highest emission impact LNG/NG scenario does not surpass the lowest impact coal scenario in any market.”
Specifically, the API said, the study shows that in China, US LNG delivers 48% fewer emissions than Chinese coal and 49% fewer emissions than US coal; in Germany, US LNG delivers 53% fewer emissions than US coal and 51% fewer emissions than German coal; and in India, emissions from US LNG are 48% lower than from both Indian and US coal.
The ICF report also indicates that most GHG emissions along the US natural gas/LNG value chain occur at the power generation stage: 418.3 kg of CO2-equivalent (kgCO2e)/MWh out of value chain emissions totaling 570.1 kgCO2e. Burning Chinese coal in Chinese power plants produces 1,063.9 kgCO2e/MWh of emissions, while burning German lignite coal in Europe produces 1,111.6 kgCO2e/MWh of emissions.
And contrary to some recent reports suggesting that using LNG to displace coal in China may actually result in higher emissions – in large part because of methane leaks during natural gas production – the ICF study pegs emissions from mining coal in China at 79.4 kgCO2e/MWh while emissions associated with US natural gas production are estimated at 47.7 kgCO2e/MWh.
It did, however, suggest that methane leaks related to Russian pipelined gas were “substantially” higher in certain scenarios.