We need to talk about gas and net zero

There may be no hotter topic in Australia than the role of gas in our journey to net zero.

With Australia now committed to reaching net zero by 2050, the focus is now squarely on how this will be achieved.

In May last year, the International Energy Agency said there was no place for new coal, oil or gas projects beyond those committed in 2021, if the world was going to reach net zero by 2050.

However, under the IEA roadmap, gas would still have a role in 2050.  While demand for unabated coal would virtually disappear and oil reduce by 75 per cent as renewables came to dominate, gas demand would only reduce by half from current levels.

And here is where the tension lies.  While the IEA is effectively saying the world has all the gas we need in currently committed projects, the commercial competition to meet, what will still be, a significant market for gas remains. 

Then, there are the geopolitical considerations, alongside the role for gas in short-term emission reduction, such as replacing coal, oil and diesel generation, providing firming capacity to renewables, providing a feedstock to get the hydrogen industry going or replacing more carbon-intensive imports.  And, in Australia, things are further complicated by the financial incentive for gas producers to export LNG. 

At some point, Australia will approve its last new gas field. Expect every proposed development to be hotly contested until then.

This piece was also printed in The West Australian newspaper.


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