By Eve Sinton
A new report claiming Australian LNG produces less greenhouse gas emissions if used domestically than coal also admits renewable energy is a less polluting option for power generation.
The report has been enthusiastically promoted by peak gas industry body APPEA, but strongly criticised by environmentalists.
APPEA says the ‘landmark report’ by the CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) confirms the greenhouse gas emissions benefits from increased use of natural gas in domestic and export markets.
Research was industry-funded
GISERA is a partnership between the CSIRO and the gas industry, including Australia Pacific LNG, QGC, Santos and Origin Energy. Its work is regarded with scepticism by conservationists, due to the industry’s powerful influence and funding.
Lock the Gate says despite comparing the gas industry favourably to emissions intensive thermal coal, the report still finds export gas is a significant greenhouse polluter.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Naomi Hogan called several of its findings into question.
“It’s interesting that even this gas-industry funded report has shown that renewables are likely to be a far better option for electricity generation, and that exporting our gas is a polluting process,” she said.
“The report also admits pollution associated with CSG exploration is not incorporated into the study. That means all the exploration-linked venting and flaring of gas wells were not considered.
“The report projects that four times as much gas from Queensland CSG fields will be exported as LNG compared to what will be available domestically, and that gas exports are significantly more polluting than gas used domestically.
Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Director Piers Verstegen said that the gas industry was deliberately misrepresenting the results of the CSIRO report in order to support a dangerous and dishonest sales pitch.
“The idea that we can save the climate by burning gas is a dangerous myth, and there is nothing in this CSIRO report that suggests otherwise.
“A major international review released earlier this year found that global LNG expansion presents a threat to the climate that is as big, or bigger than coal expansion, with its authors calling for a global moratorium on LNG expansion.”
Verstegen said, “The gas industry claims are based on a fantasy that gas is only and always used to replace coal in the energy mix, however this cannot be verified because it is not true.
The report was criticised by Renew Economy, which said, “The CSIRO estimates ‘fugitive emissions’ … were around 1.4%, which is crucially below the threshold of 3% which represents the point where fugitive emissions eliminate the benefits or lower the emissions intensity of natural gas compared to that of coal.
Questionable assertions echoed
“However, in releasing the report, the CSIRO has echoed questionable assertions made by federal energy minister Angus Taylor, who has claimed that rising Australian greenhouse gas emissions, driven higher by the expansion of Australia’s LNG industry, can be ignored because that gas is being used to reduce emissions overseas by offsetting coal use.
“Taylor is using a line that has previously been used by fossil fuel giant Woodside Petroleum, and has claimed that Australian gas exports reduced global emissions by 148 Mt CO2-e in 2018, but provided no evidence to substantiate the figure.”
Renew Economy concluded, “if Australia’s fugitive gas emissions remain consistent with current levels, and if exported Australian gas is used in high-efficiency gas generators, and if that electricity displaces generation that otherwise would have come from coal, then perhaps Australian gas can contribute to lowering global emissions.
“That’s a lot of ‘ifs’, and unfortunately, neither Angus Taylor nor the CSIRO has presented any solid evidence to substantiate claims that Australian gas exports are indeed reducing global emissions.”