Clearing the Air on Liquid Natural Gas

Shell_logo.svg.jpgEvery month when I see the magazine Seed in my mailbox I can’t wait to sit down and read it. This month I found a DVD inside the magazine with the oil company Shell’s short movie, Clearing the Air on it. My attention peaked, and I watched the movie.
Clearing the Air is a fictional account of the development of gas to liquid (GTL) or liquid natural gas (LNG). The
California Energy Commission defines LNG as “fuels that can be produced from natural gas, coal, and biomass using a Fischer-Tropsch chemical reaction process.” However, in the movie LNG is used to refer to converting natural gas into liquid for fuel.

It is mentioned, at the end of the movie, that trials were conducted in four cities around the globe, and claimed that “Sooty emissions from cars fell by forty percent.” According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “GTL diesel fuels have been shown to reduce regulated exhaust emissions from a variety of diesel engines and vehicles. Additionally, the near zero sulfur content of these fuels can enable advanced emission control devices.”
“These products have the benefit of being deliverable through our existing fuel distribution infrastructure,” the National Energy Technology Laboratory believes.
Is LNG really a clean fuel? The non-profit organization Public Citizen says, “LNG can pose significant security and environmental hazards.” Chevron, however, claims LNG meets “the most stringent environmental requirements.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune ran an article about an LNG plant being constructed in Mexico 50 miles from the U.S. border. The article stated, “Sempra’s gas will bring hundreds of tons of additional air pollution to a region already struggling to improve some of the worst air in the United States.” San Diego officials estimate that the Sempra plant will produce “more than three times the nitrous-oxide pollution that is created by the San Diego Gas & Electric Co.-owned power plant in Escondido, currently the largest single source of these emissions in the county.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) believes that using natural gas as a transportation fuel results in less pollution when “compared to conventional diesel and gasoline.” UCS expressed concerns that using natural gas as a transportation fuel requires “infrastructure investments.”
The Australian website thinks LNG is “capable of producing products that could be sold or blended into refinery stock as superior products with less pollutants for which there is growing demand.”
Environmental organizations are not in favor of LNG as a transportation fuel. Energy Justice Network believes it has “its own serious environmental hazards” because “natural gas extraction threatens ecosystems.” The environmental group points out that natural gas “is expected to peak globally around 2020, leading to serious global conflicts as China and other large and growing economies continue down the path of increased dependence on fossil fuels.”
According to Greenpeace’s report, Liquid Natural Gas: A Roadblock, the “an increased dependence on LNG is frightening because it increases reliance on environmentally destructive fossil fuels and significantly delays the possibility of moving towards renewable energy sources by creating a costly infrastructure for LNG.” The report points out that the processes to convert and transport LNG are “energy intensive.” Emissions from natural gas “are identical whether it has been converted to LNG or burned straight from gas.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by