Nov 8 (Reuters) – Carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. liquefied natural gas facilities rose to 18 million tons a year, up 81 percent from 2019, adding a volume of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere equivalent to that produced by several large coal plants. United States government data.
They could more than double to 45 million tons a year by the end of the decade as new facilities, spurred by growing overseas demand for the supercooled fuel, could come online, according to company projections provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal agency. The Energy Regulatory Commission calculated Reuters.
The emissions figures and projections, which have not been previously reported, reflect the uneasy compromise of the Biden administration, which wants to boost fuel shipments to European allies while reducing greenhouse gas production at home to fight climate change.
The Biden White House has said US LNG could help Europe reduce its dependence on gas supplies from Russia, which faces Western sanctions over its war on Ukraine. The administration approved five US LNG export licenses to serve the European market after the Russian incursion, without pre-approving any.
The White House did not return messages seeking comment on rising emissions from the LNG sector. The Energy Department, which oversees LNG export permits, said it is funding several initiatives aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from LNG terminals and other sources.
US special climate envoy John Kerry told Reuters last year that greenhouse gas emissions were an inevitable “minus” to increased LNG exports to European allies.
Carbon dioxide emissions from all seven operating U.S. LNG export facilities totaled 17.6 million tons in 2022, an 81 percent increase from 2019, when the sector had six facilities, according to EPA data.
Five projects under construction should come online by 2028, generating an additional 27 million tons of emissions annually, according to company projections provided to the EPA and FERC.
That would amount to more than 45 million tons per year by the end of the decade, or roughly 2.5% of current carbon emissions from the US energy industry.
Meanwhile, LNG exporters have shelved plans to use carbon capture and offset (CCS) to reduce emissions, casting doubt on the technology’s viability as a large-scale solution to the industry’s climate impact.
CO2 emissions from the energy-intensive process of liquefied gas for export represent only one phase of the industry’s overall climate impact. Methane leaks during drilling, pipelines, shipping and distribution also add to pollution, even before the fuel is used.
The United States became an LNG exporter in 2016 on the back of a boom in domestic natural gas drilling as overseas shipments grew rapidly.
U.S. LNG exports averaged a record 11.6 billion cubic feet per day in the first half of 2023, up 4 percent from the first half of last year, with much of that going to Europe, making the United States the world’s largest LNG exporter. largest exporter. Department of Energy Information.
LNG advocates argue that the fuel burns cleaner than coal.
Countries around the world are looking to copy the U.S. model for economic development and rapid reductions in carbon emissions, which is to move away from dirtier fuels and combine natural gas with renewables, said Robert Fee, the LNG exporter’s vice president for climate and international affairs. Cheniere Energy (LNG.A).
Critics say it’s unclear whether the boom in US gas exports to Europe is displacing coal or delaying the shift to renewables like solar and wind.
“We don’t really know how much coal is being displaced into these overseas markets,” said Alexandra Shaykiewicz, an analyst at the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project.
Suspicions of carbon capture
Three LNG operators Freeport LNG, Sempra ( SRE.N ) and Venture Global have announced plans in 2021 and 2022 to use carbon sequestration to offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions.
Freeport’s CCS project was supposed to begin injecting CO2 pollution from the Texas plant by 2024, according to a 2021 press release. But in an August disclosure to the SEC, its project partner Talos Energy said: “We have no future development plans for the project.”
Freeport declined to comment on the development and Talos did not return messages.
Sempra last year announced plans to incorporate a CCS project at its Cameron LNG facility in Louisiana. But the company said in an SEC filing that the project requires commitment from its partners before moving forward.
Sempra did not respond to requests for comment on the likelihood of the project being built.
The upcoming CCS projects are also in doubt.
NextDecade Corp said its proposed terminal near Brownsville, Texas, could remove more than 90% of its annual 6.4 million tons of carbon emissions. But the company told Reuters the economy was uncertain.
“There must be customers willing to support the revenue requirements to cover the costs of financing, building and operating the facility and to provide an acceptable return on capital invested,” spokeswoman Susan Richardson said.
Reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Richard Waldmanis and Susan Goldenberg
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