Indispensable these days Natural gas is becoming ever more important for energy production in Germany and Europe
Natural gas is an essential pillar of our energy supply. In 2011, it supplied approximately 24% of the primary energy consumed around the world. This is slightly less than oil (33%) and coal (30%), and significantly more than nuclear power and renewable energies, which together only contribute 13% of the global energy supply. In Germany, the mix is similar and natural gas provides the lion’s share of our energy.
It’s hard to believe that not long ago this form of energy, which is so valuable today, was an unwanted by-product of oil production and usually burnt at the production site to get rid of it.
Natural gas guarantees our heat and electricity supply
Natural gas guarantees our heat and electricity and has become an indispensable part of our energy supply. In 2011, German households alone consumed about 29% of this environmentally friendly energy source. It was also widely used by industry and the electricity sector, who accounted for the use of 25% and 23% respectively of the total supply. The way we use natural gas is likely to change in the future. Experts predict that by 2040 more than 40% of natural gas will be used for electricity generation. In contrast, the share of natural gas being consumed by households is likely to fall in future thanks to efficient modern heating systems and better insulated homes.
Natural gas and the future of the energy industry
The contribution made by renewable energy in overall energy generation is still low, but is likely to increase as a result of the political consensus in favour of its use. Equally, there is a consensus that there needs to be a reliable supplement to the renewable energy in the process of creating a greener world. The supply of solar, wind and water power fluctuates unpredictably and without regard to market demand.
To guard against the risk of blackouts during our transition into the green era, renewable energies must be complimented by an additional source that can balance out these fluctuations in a more environmentally friendly way than coal and oil. The obvious choice is natural gas. It has the best climate performance out of all the fossil fuels as it releases 25% less CO2 than oil when burnt, 30% less hard coal and 35% less than brown coal. Modern gas-fired power stations have the highest efficiency rates, especially when generating combined heat and power.
They are a source of decentralised energy, meaning that energy is produced close to where it is needed. This means the gas fired power stations can cut back as energy requirements are being met by solar or wind power. Gas is an ideal contingency and partner for renewable energy sources as we travel down the path towards a greener future.
The growing importance of natural gas worldwide
Global forecasts indicate that natural gas will play an increasingly important role as a source of energy worldwide. Global consumption is expected to increase by 2% a year until 2030, which is a much higher growth rate than for oil (0.8%) and coal (1.2%). The International Energy Agency is already describing the next few years as a golden age for natural gas. It will be available at affordable prices for the foreseeable future with proven reserves forecasted to last for around 230 years, in contrast to crude oil, which could become scarce just 40 years from now. Therefore, natural gas will play an increasingly important role in heat and electricity generation and transport all over the world.
Imports and domestic production
Today the world’s largest natural gas producers are the USA (who produced 651 billion cubic meters in 2011), Russia (607 billion cubic meters), Canada (161 billion cubic meters), Iran (152 billion cubic meters), Qatar (147 billion cubic meters), China (103 billion cubic meters).
Domestic production in Germany is modest compared to these nations. In 2011, the country produced ten billion cubic meters, and contributed about 11% to domestic consumption. Although domestic production increases will provide supply security in Germany, most of our natural gas will continue to be imported. Natural gas reaches Germany by pipeline, mostly from Russia, Norway and the Netherlands. In 2011 alone these three countries supplied 83 billion cubic meters to Germany. In other European countries, including Spain, the UK and France, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from tankers also makes an important contribution. In 2011 about 64 billion cubic meters of natural gas were imported in this way. Regardless of whether supplies are delivered in pipelines or on tankers, Europe needs reliable partnerships with the world’s major gas exporters to guarantee the security of our energy supply