Joe Kang, President of the International Gas Union (IGU), whose members represent more than 95% of the global gas market, says gas supply is a catalyst for the energy transition. In a conversation with Daniel Yergin, Vice Chairman at IHS Markit, Kang talks about how energy transition is “inherently, characteristically diverse and complex.”
Reacting to the IEA’s May 2021 report on pathways to net-zero emissions by 2050, Kang says the IEA scenario—which envisions the global power mix being 90% renewables and 10% nuclear— “is too ambitious and impractical.”
“Given that the present global energy mix is 30% oil, 27% coal, 26% natural gas and less than 10% renewable, the energy transition is a time-consuming, expensive, step-by-step process. How can you change the whole landscape in less than 30 years?” he says.
Speaking of the varying challenges that developed, developing and underdeveloped countries face in meeting net-zero goals, Kang says that “different patients with different diseases should have a different prescription. We don’t have a panacea in the energy issue. There is no yellow brick road in energy issues.”
Guyana, surely a “different patient” with years of underdevelopment, is now looking to utilize its recently discovered hydrocarbon resources to push a broad-based development agenda that includes using associated gas from its vast oil fields to produce cleaner and cheaper energy. The country currently depends on the import of heavy oil to produce electricity.
Some have contented in the South American country that the government should move straight to renewable energy sources and abandon plans to move forward with the US$900 million gas-to-energy project that will see a pipeline bringing gas to shore from the prolific Liza reservoirs.
But Kang, like other experts, points out that renewables have several limitations, and that gas is an ideal first step towards transitioning.
He said that gas has four core attributes: Energy supply that is accessible, secure, constant and affordable.
“Gas supply is a catalyst for the energy transition. We’ve proved those attributes of natural gas. In the future we are always ‘friends’ with renewables…You can see the trajectory in the global energy mix,” he said. “Two energy sources are increasing. One is renewables, the other is natural gas. Renewables has a lack of flexibility, intermittency and seasonality. Gas does not have that. We can complement the shortage of renewables. That’s why we call gas a hand-in-hand partner to renewables.”
Guyana’s gas-to-energy project is expected to last for at least 25 years and is generally anticipated to have a positive effect on the economy as a result of more affordable and reliable electricity, as well as increased employment and investment opportunities.
“I believe gas will continue to play [a partnering role to renewables] but the IEA’s roadmap to 2050 didn’t say that. They didn’t recognize how gas contributes to the energy transition,” Kang asserted.