Comparison of GHG Emissions for Proposed LNG Terminals and Coal Plants
|This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.|
As of January 2019, the Global Coal Plant Tracker reported 573 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power plants in pre-construction and construction phases. As of April 2019, the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker reported 772 million tonnes per annum of LNG export terminals in pre-construction or construction phases. This wiki page provides a comparison between the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the two cohorts of projects, measured in CO2 and CO2 equivalent over a 20-year horizon (CO2e20) and a 100-year horizon (CO2e100).
Comparing the greenhouse gas impact of global coal plant development to that of global LNG terminal development requires a full lifecycle comparison of both coal and natural gas. Table 1 below shows the elements of the comparison, and Table 5 shows the assumptions and coefficients used in the analysis.
To compare the impacts of the two fossil fuel categories—increased production and consumption associated with LNG terminals and increased coal production and consumption associated with new coal-fired power plants—we consider the full lifecycle impacts from wellhead or coal mine through combustion.
For coal, greenhouse gas impacts are mainly in the form of the carbon dioxide produced by coal-fired power plants, but some additional global warming impacts result from the venting and leaking of methane from coal mines, and from releases of carbon dioxide by trains and ships.
The comparison between coal and gas requires converting any impacts from fugitive methane emissions into the atmosphere into a CO2 equivalent. For natural gas, fugitive emissions occur throughout the production cycle, including well site, processing, transmission, storage, liquefaction, and distribution. Some methane “boils off” during ocean transit but is recaptured and burned by ship engines; methane is also combusted to fuel the liquefaction process and by end-use applications such as industrial heating or power generation.
Coal mining produces significant amounts of methane due to outgassing of coal seams. Such emissions are dramatically higher in underground mines. This analysis assumes the approximately equal shares of coal are produced globally by underground and surface mining. The analysis does not include combustion emissions resulting from the powering of natural gas wellhead or coal mining operations.
Table 1. Comparison between the greenhouse gas emissions enabled by pre-construction and in-construction coal plants (573 gigawatts) and the pre-construction and in-construction LNG export terminals (772 million tonnes per annum), based on 2018 utilization rates. Emissions in million tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum.
|Source of Emissions||Natural gas (20-year Horizon)||Coal (20-year Horizon)|
|Supply Chain Fugitive Methane||1,339||335|
|Coal Transport (ship)||11|
|Coal Transport (rail)||40|
|Source of Emissions||Natural gas (100-year Horizon)||Coal (100-year Horizon)|
|Supply Chain Fugitive Methane||529||133|
|Coal Transport (ship)||10|
|Coal Transport (rail)||40|
Notes on Parameters and Calculations
- Coal plant pipeline based on Global Coal Plant Tracker, January 2019, and Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, April 2019.
- Coal plants in pre-construction: 338,571 megawatts (MW); coal plants in construction: 235,633 MW.
- Annual combustion emissions from coal plants in pre-construction and construction: 2,361 million tonnes CO2
- Global coal power average load factor: 52.8%.
- Global export terminal average utilization rate in 2018: 79.04%, based on mid-year estimate for terminal export capacity and full-year LNG global trade estimate..
- LNG export terminals in pre-construction: 810.9 million tonnes per annum (MTPA), LNG export terminals in construction: 45.5 MTPA.
- Increased natural gas production enabled by LNG export terminal expansion: 676.9 million tonnes per annum, based on proposed capacity in 2019 and 2018 export terminal utilization rate.
- Supply chain methane leakage rate: 2.3%
- Liquefaction, transport, regasification emissions
- Coal supply chain methane (CH4) leakage: 50:50 weighted average of 8 cubic feet per short ton for surface mining, 360 cubic feet per short ton for underground mining.
- Coal shipping emissions: based on 2015 global CO2 emissions for bulk shipping, of which 18.75% is thermal coal.
- Coal rail emissions: based on 51.5 million tonnes per year CO2 from total rail transport in U.S., of which 13% was coal, scaled globally based on U.S. share of global thermal coal production.
- CH4 cumulative forcing, with inclusion of climate-carbon feedbacks, relative to CO2: On a 20-year horizon, 86:1; on a 100-year horizon, 34:1.
|574,204||MW||Coal-fired power plants in pre-construction or construction||“Coal Plants by Region (MW) - January 2019,” Global Coal Plant Tracker. http://bit.ly/2GHEQUT|
|2,361||Million tonnes CO2||Annual combustion emissions from coal plants in pre-construction and construction||“Coal Plants by Region: Annual CO2 - January 2019,” Global Coal Plant Tracker.|
|52.80%||Average global coal power load factor, 2017||IEA World Energy Outlook, 2018|
|79.04%||Average LNG export terminal utilization rate, 2018||Based on mid-2018 capacity estimate (Global Fossil Infrastrututre Tracker) and 2018 LNG shipments of 313.8 million tonne (GIIGNL 2018)|
|856.4||Million tonnes per annum||Proposed new LNG export capacity||Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, April 15, 2019|
|676.9||Million tonnes per annum||Increased natural gas production enabled by LNG export terminal expansion||Based on proposed capacity and 2018 terminal utilization|
|2.30%||U.S. natural gas supply chain fugitive emissions rate||Alvarez 2018|
|7.3||Cubic feet per tonne||CH4 released by surface coal mining||US DOE 2014|
|326.6||Cubic feet per tonne||CH4 released by underground coal mining||US DOE 2014|
|1061||Million tonnes per annum||CO2e from all global shipping, 20-year horizon||Olmer 2017|
|1025||Million tonnes per annum||CO2e from all global shipping, 100-year horizon||Olmer 2017|
|3.60%||Thermal coal share of global shipping||Olmer 2017 and analysis|
|51.5||Million tonnes per annum||CO2 from all U.S. rail shipments||Association of American Railroads 2008|
|32%||Coals’ share of U.S. rail shipments||Association of American Railroads, 2018|
|327||Kg CO2 per tonne LNG||Liquefaction emissions; average of high/low estimates for 100-year horizon||Pace Global 2015|
|350||Kg CO2 per tonne LNG||Liquefaction emissions; average of high/low estimates for 20-year horizon||Pace Global 2015|
|192||Kg CO2 per tonne LNG||LNG ship emissions; average of high/low cases for 100-year horizon (CO2 emissions only; CH4 emissions negligible)||Pace Global 2015|
|11||Kg CO2 per tonne LNG||CO2 regasification emissions; average of high-low cases; CH4 emissions negligible||Pace Global 2015|
Articles and resources
- "Proposed Coal Plants by Region (MW)," Global Coal Plant Tracker, January 2019
- "Coal Plants by Region: Annual CO2 (Million Tonnes)," Global Coal Plant Tracker, January 2019
- "World Energy Outlook 2018," International Energy Agency, Annex E, "New Policies Scenario," estimates for 2017 global coal power capacity and global coal power generation
- Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, April 2019
- “Annual Report 2019,”GIIGNL
- Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, April 2019
- Alvarez, R., et al., “Assessment of methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas supply chain," Science Vol. 361 No. 6398, July 13, 2018
- “LNG and Coal Life Cycle Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” Pace Global for Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, October 2015
- “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas from the United States,” U.S. Department of Energy, May 29, 2014
- Olmer, N., et al., “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Shipping, 2013-2015,” ICCT. October 2017
- “Coal, the ‘Black Gold’ of Dry Bulk Shipping,” Open Seas, Accessed June 5, 2019
- Association of American Railroads. “Freight Railroads & Greeenhouse Gas Emissions,” Association of American Railroads, June 2008
- “Railroads and Coal,” Association of American Railroads, 2018
- G. Myhre et all, "Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing," Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013, Table 8.7, p. 714
Related SourceWatch articles
- Alvarez, R., et al. “Assessment of methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas supply chain.” Science Vol. 361 No. 6398, July 13, 2018. http://bit.ly/2VvGGvi
- Association of American Railroads. “Freight Railroads & Greeenhouse Gas Emissions.” June 2008. http://bit.ly/2KwYO67
- Association of American Railroads. “Railroads and Coal.” 2018. http://bit.ly/2KCQ52z
- Etminan, M., Myhre, G., Highwood, E., Shine, K. “Radiative forcing of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide: A significant revision of the methane radiative forcing.” Geophysical Research Letters. December 27, 2016. http://bit.ly/2W4X9Xz
- Food and Water Watch. “The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos.” June 2019. http://bit.ly/2KC4SdP
- GIIGNL. “Annual Report 2019.” http://bit.ly/30x0P7T.
- Global Coal Plant Tracker. January 2019. http://endcoal.org/tracker/.
- Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker. April 2019. https://ggon.org/fossil-tracker.
- Howarth, R. “Methane emissions and climatic warming risk from hydraulic fracturing and shale gas development: implications for policy.” Energy and Emission Control Technologies 2015:3, 45-54. http://bit.ly/2Wbhzyp
- Howarth, R., Santoro, R., Ingraffea, A. “Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations.” Climate Change. 2011. http://bit.ly/2KuKWcM
- Howarth, R. “A bridge to nowhere: methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas.” Energy Science & Engineering. 2014. http://bit.ly/317zs4x
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- International Energy Agency. “Gas 2018.” June 2018. http://bit.ly/2KtdaV6
- International Energy Agency. “Gas 2019.” June 2019. http://bit.ly/2KDUnGP
- International Energy Agency. “Outlook for Natural Gas.” 2017. http://bit.ly/2Kw9p17
- International Gas Union. “2018 World LNG Report.” http://bit.ly/30Gj2ju
- International Gas Union. “Wholesale Gas Price Survey, 2019 Edition,” May 2019. http://bit.ly/2VE8mOs.
- Jaramillo, P. “A Life Cycle Comparison of Coal and Natural Gas for Electricity Generation and the Production of Transportation Fuels.” Carnegie Mellon University. December 2007. http://bit.ly/2W9wvwK
- Lattanzio, R. “Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Assessment of Coal and Natural Gas in the Power Sector.” Congressional Research Service. June 26, 2015. http://bit.ly/31b4d8X
- Mufson, S. “Exporting U.S. natural gas isn’t as ‘clean’ as you think,” Washington Post, June 9, 2014. https://wapo.st/30sHJzI
- Muttitt, G., and Stockman, L. “Burning the Gas ‘Bridge Fuel’ Myth,” Oil Change International. November 2017. http://bit.ly/30sLzJj
- Myhre, G., et al. ( 2014), “Anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing” in AR5 Climate Changte 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. April 2014. http://bit.ly/2Wbt7kU
- NASA. A Global View of Methane. January 1-31, 2016. https://go.nasa.gov/2KFfyIl
- Nisbet, E., et al. “Very Strong Atmospheric Methane Growth in the 4 Years 2014–2017: Implications for the Paris Agreement.” Global Biogeochemical Cycles. February 15, 2019. http://bit.ly/310NViN
- Olmer, N., et al. “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Shipping, 2013-2015.” ICCT. October 2017. http://bit.ly/2KvlqE0
- Open Seas. “Coal, the ‘Black Gold’ of Dry Bulk Shipping.”Accessed June 5, 2019. http://bit.ly/2Kt3N7N
- Pace Global. “LNG and Coal Life Cycle Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Center for Liquefied Natural Gas. October 2015. http://bit.ly/2KDE251
- Pérez, A. “Global Gas Lock-in. Bridge to Nowhere.” Rusa Luxemburg Stiftung. October 2018. http://bit.ly/31l4KF9
- Stockman, L. “Burning the Gas ‘Bridge Fuel’ Myth: Why Gas Is Not Clean, Cheap, or Necessary.” Oil Change International. May 2019. http://bit.ly/31kn2Xi
- U.S. Department of Energy. “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas from the United States.” May 29, 2014. http://bit.ly/2W8keso
- U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Global LNG trade posts record growth again in 2018, led by the growth in spot and short-term trade,” April 25, 2019. http://bit.ly/2VC8PRv
- U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Hydraulically fractured wells provide two-thirds of U.S. natural gas production.” May 5, 2016. http://bit.ly/31jB8YT
- UNCTAD. “Review of Marine Transport.” 2017. http://bit.ly/2Ktj3BB
- Whitaker, M., Heath, G., O’Donoughue, P, Vorum, P. “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Coal-Fired Electricity Generation.” Journal of Industrial Ecology. April 4, 2012. http://bit.ly/2W3djRf
[[Category: Proposed gas pipelines in the United States]}