Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is an environmentally-friendly and high energy efficiency fuel. It is a colorless and odorless cryogenic liquid that’s made from natural gas. LNG exists at -162°C. Among its many uses, LNG is used to generate electric power in a process known as Gas-to-Power (GTP).
GTP is a thermodynamic process through which LNG’s chemical energy converts to thermal energy, mechanical energy, and eventually to electrical energy. During the process, LNG is passed through gas turbine generators, mixed with compressed air at high pressure, and ignited. That’s how it produces and feeds electricity to a grid system.
The Pros of Using LNG for Power Generation
1. Serving the underserved
There is a handful of regions especially in Asia and Africa with accelerating populations, and growing economic potential, but slow clean energy adoption. These regions need flexible, clean, efficient, and reliable energy supply in order to unlock their full potential. LNG, through GTP, is the most promising low-emission fuel for these regions because of its abundance, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness.
LNG is the perfect fuel for spearheading growth in the developing world according to Joseph Sigelman, Chairman and CEO of Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Company (AG&P). Joe has been at the forefront of delivering LNG to underserved markets across Southeast Asia, notably in India and the Philippines. His sentiments were echoed recently by Jack Fusco, CEO of LNG producer Cheniere, during an interview with Worldwide Exchange. In Jack’s view, LNG will help in bridging energy gaps during the ongoing global energy crisis. Underserved and unserved markets are hit the hardest by global energy crises.
2. It’s clean
LNG produces significantly lower amounts of CO2, NOx, and SO2 compared to other fossil fuels. According to a study done by the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG), on a life cycle basis, coal-fired power plants in the US produce almost triple the emissions of LNG-fired plants produce. One lifecycle starts from production all the way to transmission.
3. Reliable supply chains
According to Shell CEO Wael Sawan, the world is thirsty for energy. And with the war in Ukraine causing a breakdown in the global oil supply, the world needs an energy source with reliable supply chains. LNG ticks that box in multiple ways. First, transportation of natural gas from the gas reserves to the end consumer is easier now that natural gas can be liquefied and transported by road or sea. Secondly, energy players such as Joseph Sigelman have made small-scale LNG trade a possibility. This means even countries with relatively small gas reserves can produce their own LNG for domestic use. Thirdly, the emergence of disruptive technology in LNG production, liquefaction, and transportation gives hope to end users that there will be enough energy platforms with natural gas to go around in the foreseeable future.
4. Flexibility and effectiveness
As we head towards a sustainable and green future, the world needs to invest more in renewable energy projects, such as solar power and wind. But then these renewables are intermittent due to their dependence on weather conditions. That means they’re not effective as of now, and they are far from being flexible. Gas-fired plants, on the other hand, aren’t weather-dependent. They are fully operational all year round.
Cons of Using LNG for Power Generation
There aren’t many downsides as there are upsides to using LNG for power generation. The common cons include:
1. Natural gas is a non-renewable energy source, which means the gas reserves we enjoy now will be depleted sometime in the future. It takes millions of years for dead plants and animals to decompose and make natural gas deep under the Earth’s surface. What that means is that once we deplete the current supply, which is expected to happen in about 1 century, we won’t have any more LNG.
2. Fracking is not environmentally friendly. This process is used extensively in the US for natural gas extraction. Experts say that it could negatively impact the environment and human health, particularly because it generates noise, emits methane and greenhouse gases, and pollutes our waterways. Natural gas extraction also leads to land degradation, destruction of animal and plant habitats, and even disruptions of animal migratory patterns. When done in close proximity to residential areas, experts fear that fracking can cause diseases such as cancer and asthma, and can harm pregnant mothers and their unborn children.
LNG has huge roles to play in the global energy mix, both conventional and unconventional. As an energy source for power generation, LNG is proving to be more reliable than oil and other fossil fuels in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability.