Major reductions in carbon emissions cannot be achieved in the short and medium term without a bigger commitment to gas, says Statoil's chief executive Helge Lund.
He arrived in Copenhagen on December 13, in connection with the UN climate summit to present his views on the contribution natural gas can make to a sustainable future.
Natural gas is an available, flexible and competitive energy bearer with a key part to play in finding a climate change solution, Lund told a meeting held by the International Gas Union.
Carbon emissions can be substantially reduced by replacing coal with natural gas, he said. Gas is also important for realizing new energy forms, in part as a back-up for intermittent wind power.
Unlike the world's oil reserves, the volumes of proven gas are increasing and new technology is helping to make several unconventional resources profitable.
"Last but not least; natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel in terms of carbon dioxide emissions and particles and is the perfect bridge towards a low-carbon future," Lund maintained.
No Quick Fix
He emphasized that no quick fix exists for a non-carbon future, but that natural gas as an energy bearer and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a technology could give good results.
Statoil is a world leader for CCS. At full capacity, it can capture and store some three million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from Norway's Sleipner and Snøhvit developments and the In Salah field in Algeria.
A center now under construction at the Mongstad refinery operated by Statoil north of Bergen will develop technology for carbon capture from flue gases at gas- and coal-fired power stations.
In addition to qualifying efficient solutions, this facility will play an important part in reducing the high costs of such treatment.
Carbon capture from flue gases is a very expensive technology today, and unprofitable at the current price put on carbon emissions, Lund noted.
"We are a company with huge gas reserves," he said. "If we succeed in commercialising this technology, natural gas can become an even bigger part of the solution to the climate challenge."
An agreement by world leaders assembled in Copenhagen on a high global price for carbon emissions could be an important step in making carbon capture from flue gases profitable, for instance.
"A worldwide framework for emission trading and higher carbon prices will mobilise capital and technology to reduce emissions and make low-emission energy sources more attractive," said Lund.
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