BP's Chief Touts Natural Gas as the Natural Choice

BP chief executive Tony Hayward believes natural gas has a bigger role to play in the world's energy future. Speaking at the 24th World Gas Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said, "We need to take carbon out of the energy mix today and we need to be realistic about how we're going to do that."

The solution, he said is through a diverse energy supply -- particularly in the power sector, which he described as "one of the principal drivers of growth in global demand for energy to 2030."

That diversity will require the continued use of fossil fuels, nuclear and alternative energies such as wind, solar and biofuels, but, he said, until "renewables gain a sizeable share of the power sector and cleaner coal is available through carbon capture and storage, I can see only one way of doing it -- by increasing the use of natural gas."

He continued, "Using technology available today, greater use of natural gas can provide the quickest, most realistic path to achieving the largest emissions reductions at the lowest cost."

While the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology offers great opportunities to develop cleaner burning coal, this route faces significant challenges. "I don't believe we'll see the commercial use of CCS at scale for at least another decade or more and it won't come without a price," he said.

By contrast, gas is already the cleanest burning fossil fuel -- compared to coal it only generates half as much carbon per kilowatt hour -- is abundant, versatile, efficient and can complement renewable energy.

Last year it was the only hydrocarbon that saw a rise in consumption in both OECD and non-OECD countries and developments in technology are now unlocking yet further unconventional gas reserves. BP estimates that "undeveloped or unidentified unconventional gas could contribute a further 4,000 trillion cubic feet to gas resources over the next few years -- another 60% on top of current proven gas reserves."

Summing up, Hayward told his audience, "Natural gas can transform the global energy outlook. It's here. It's now. It's cleaner. It's more affordable. What are we waiting for?"