Australia is on a pathway to decarbonise the gas sector to help meet the nation’s emission reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The latest publication in the series, Gas Vision 2050: Delivering the pathway to net-zero for Australia: 2022 outlook, says Australian gas pipelines and distribution networks businesses are actively identifying and completing the actions they can take to contribute to emissions reductions, with most already having adopted net-zero targets.
These businesses are working to make gas networks and pipelines ready to accommodate any form of renewable and decarbonised gas to reduce emissions.
There are many technologies to reduce emissions including energy efficiency and carbon offsets. But to reach net-zero, the fuel itself needs to be replaced by renewable and decarbonised gases or could also potentially be replaced with renewable electricity.
The three available pathways are:
- Bio- and renewable methane, which provides a carbon neutral equivalent to natural gas and includes biomethane and synthetic renewable methane.
- Hydrogen, which produces no greenhouse gases when used as a natural gas substitute.
- Direct electrification, which substitutes natural gas use with electrical alternatives, can result in lower emissions when the electricity grid is decarbonised
Individuals, councils, governments and businesses have proactively implemented net-zero emission targets. While most of the focus has been to reduce emissions from electricity use, attention is also turning to what leadership in reducing emissions from gas use looks like.
Strong support has emerged from residential and commercial customers for cleaner gas options. In turn, energy businesses are offering low emissions energy solutions and demonstrating new zero-emissions technologies.
The initial publication in the series, Gas Vision 2050, published in March 2017, set its sights on what gas use in our homes, cities, industrial centres and power generators would need to look like in the year 2050. Since the launch of Gas Vision 2050, the need to reduce emissions has continued to gain community support.
Read more about the pathways to achieve net-zero emissions from gas in the report which you will find in the resources below. You will also find the DNV report: National Gas Decarbonisation Plan: Decarbonising Australia's gas pipelines and networks which provided some of the data in the Gas Vision 2050 report.
The vision is for Australia to continue to turn its gas resources into products and services that will enhance national prosperity while achieving carbon neutrality. It identifies how gas and gas infrastructure can be used to solve the energy trilemma by balancing energy affordability, energy security and environmental outcomes. A strategic approach to reducing emissions can use developing technologies to also deliver jobs, growth and export benefits for Australia.
Residential and commercial customers use gas for cooking, space heating and hot water, and in industrial processes gas is used to provide heat and is a major feedstock to produce common goods such as plastics and fertilisers. Gas also plays a significant role in the reliability and stability of our power system by providing peak generation to back up renewable electricity. Gas is one of Australia’s most important exports, contributing $47 billion to our economy in 2019-20.
The value of the infrastructure that delivers this energy should not be overlooked. Continuing to use gas infrastructure can reduce emissions at half the cost to customers than electrifying the services provided by gas. This is because electrification will impose massive system-wide costs for grid reinforcements on customer bills.
There is a growing domestic and international interest to decarbonise gas. Industry has responded by leading the development of research, pilot and commercial scale projects to demonstrate this.
In the next few years, natural gas, LPG and LNG will be supplemented by other gaseous fuels such as hydrogen, biomethane and renewable gas, creating exciting new opportunities. Indeed, in 2020, the first Australian homes will receive a blend of green hydrogen in their gas. The work we are doing aims to minimise impacts to customers while creating additional options to reduce emissions. Initially this will involve blending at low concentrations, followed by scaling up as we learn by doing.
We are on this pathway, but more work needs to be done. In this document we describe the strong progress that has been made in advancing the transformational technologies outlined in Gas Vision 2050 and outline key steps for the next decade to decarbonise Australia’s gas sector.
Value of gas and gas infrastructure
Deploying transformational technologies using existing gas infrastructure is also more economically favourable than electrification.
Frontier Economics completed a study to investigate and evaluate options of the roles of gas and gas infrastructure to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050. The study focused on ongoing capital and operating costs in 2050 assuming a transition to a decarbonised economy was made by then.
The annual costs of different decarbonisation scenarios were modelled. These scenarios were compared to a base case where the electricity sector reached net zero emissions in 2050 while unabated gas use continued to supply heat and feedstock to industry. These scenarios achieved net-zero emission from gas use and included blue hydrogen, green hydrogen and electrification.
See the full series of Gas Vision 2050 publications in the resources below.
A video of Gas Vision 2050 is also available via the resources below.