Global Liquefied Natural Gas Expansion Exceeds Demand for Coal-to-gas Switching in Paris Compliant Pathways

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Shuting Yang , Arvind P Ravikumar , Sara Hastings Simon 


The shift from coal to natural gas (NG) in the power sector has led to significant reductions in carbon emissions. The shale gas revolution that led to this shift is now fueling a global expansion in liquefied natural gas (LNG) export infrastructure. In this work, we assess the viability of LNG expansion to reduce global carbon emissions through coal-to-gas switching in the power sector under three temperature targets – Paris compliant 1.5ºC and 2ºC, and business-as-usual 3ºC. In the near term (pre-2038), LNG-derived coal-to-gas substitution reduces global carbon emissions across all temperature targets as there is significantly more coal power generation than the LNG required to substitute it. However, we find that long-term planned LNG expansion is not compatible with the Paris climate targets of 1.5ºC – here, the potential for emissions reductions from LNG through coal-to-gas switching is limited by the availability of coal-based generation. In a 3ºC scenario, high levels of coal-based generation through mid-century make LNG an attractive option to reduce emissions. Thus, expanding LNG infrastructure can be considered as insurance against the potential lack of global climate action to limit temperatures to 1.5ºC or 2ºC. In all scenarios analyzed, low upstream methane leakage and high coal-to-gas substitution are critical to realizing near-term climate benefits. Investors and governments should consider stranded risk assets associated with potentially shorter lifetimes of LNG infrastructure in a Paris-compatible world.



Oil, Gas, and Energy, Sustainability


climate policy, Paris Agreement, LNG, coal-to-gas switching, life cycle emissions


Published: 2020-12-04 01:18

Last Updated: 2021-06-13 05:50

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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