Laurent VivierPresident Gas of Total
"The Switch from Coal to Gas Could Be a Climate Game-Changer"
To keep global warmingGlobal warming, also called planetary warming or climate change... within the lower limits set by the international community, powerful tools that can be quickly rolled out are needed out to ensure that goals are met. Switching from coal-to gas-fired powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... generation is one of these tools. Laurent Vivier, President Gas of Total, provides his analysis.
The Paris AgreementOil contract under which the oil that is produced is shared between the state and the oil company..., adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP 21), aims to cap the increase in global average temperature by the end of the century at 2°C, or ideally 1.5°C, above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this, countries will gradually need to switch from coal- to gas-fired power generation over the next few years.
This transition is one of the factors that will help dramatically reduce the amount of greenhouse gasGas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... emissions. Increased energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system... and the breakthrough of renewable energies will also play a key role, but they are time consuming, expensive and require new regulations and complex management of power grids. The benefits of switching from coalCoal is ranked by its degree of transformation or maturity, increasing in carbon content from... to gas, however, can be demonstrated with basic arithmetic: for the same amount of energy produced, natural gas emits half as much CO2See Carbon Dioxid as coal, even when the full lifecycle of both resources – from the mine or the well to the power plant – is taken into account.
Today's situation is conducive to this switch.
- Natural gas reserves currently represent around 140 years of consumption, and new fields are being added to the map every year (East Africa, Mediterranean, etc.). This energy source is therefore expected to be broadly available for a long time.
- Liquefied natural gas (LNG)LNG is composed almost entirely of methane. Liquefying the gas reduces its initial volume by a factor of around 600... production is experiencing significant growth. With the development of shale gasShale gas is found in deeply buried clayey sedimentary rock that is both the source rock and the reservoir for the gas..., the United States has become a gas exporter, Australia has launched major projects, and Qatar has increased its export capacity. LNG production is increasing by around 4% each year, compared with 2% for ordinary gas and between 0.5% and 1% for oil. Some 10% to 11% of natural gas is currently transported in liquefied form, and this percentage should rise to 15% by 2030.
- Since it is shipped in carriers, LNG offers great flexibility in terms of distribution. Production can therefore take place far from the consumer regions. Coal-heavy China and India have already built regasification terminals, which are needed to import LNG, and further infrastructure is under construction in both countries. As an immediate result, India, for example, is importing more natural gas than ever before.
- These changes are helping to make natural gas competitive. The price of natural gas, and hydrocarbonsThe final phase in petroleum system formation, after a deposit has accumulated... in general, has fallen faster than that of coal. In the United States for example, coal now accounts for less than 50% of power generation due to the increasing competitiveness of natural gas.
In this environment, technological developments and huge investments in LNG will make natural gas a credible alternative to coal in power generation and a decisive lever in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Natural gas is much more than just a bridge to renewable energies, as it is often described. In addition to power generation, new uses are emerging for natural gas, including as a fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... in road transportation – in China, more than 200,000 trucks run on natural gas – and in shipping. This suggests that natural gas will remain an integral part of the global energy mixThe range of energy sources of a region. for decades to come.
Laurent Vivier, President Gas of Total since August 1, 2015, started his career within the Group in 1996, holding successive positions in the tradingThe buying and selling of products in financial markets... offices in Paris, Geneva, London and Houston. He moved back to Paris in 2011 where he held various positions as head of strategy for gas, power and renewable energies. Born in 1970, he is a graduate of the EDHEC School of Business in France and the London School of Economics and Political Science.