Articles from 2013
The Holy Grail of Climate Change: Coal can end in China
- Written by Nick Grealy
- Published: 11 June 2013
If the April 2011 EIA report on World Shale Gas resources was as I described at the time “Shale Gas’ WOW moment”, this year’s model out yesterday serves the same purpose for shale oil, and advances to be more of a multiple expletive moment for shale gas resources. The title says it all: Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources are globally abundant.
This will keep me busy for so long it’s hard to know where to start - or stop. But I will stop, for today, at the most important destination, China, with a few quick points en route:
- Shale gas resources are globally distributed. Granted that the US is the first place to access them, it is not uniquely blessed by God.The US has 1161 TCF of Technically Recoverable Resources out of 7795. That makes 85% of gas TRR outside the US
- This isn’t the place to argue about the 26TCF I think the report mistakenly attributes to the UK. Having said that, even that amount is, as I pointed out on BBC Radio earlier today, "merely” £180 billion, £112BN of which goes to the Chancellor. Greens may be rich enough to sneer at that, most of us aren't enough to sneeze at it.
- Including the UK figure, and even subtracting Russia’s astounding 285TCF, that still leaves the EU with 598 TCF. Despite what the conventional wisdom would have us believe, this compares very well with the United States’ 573 TCF TRR. (Looking at the EIA figures, both Spain and Germany’s potential also appears understated).
- Moving to oil, we have some killer numbers, which were foreshadowed here last year when ExxonMobil left Poland gas, for Russian oil. The figure of 74 Billion (yes, that is with a B) barrels of technically recoverable oil will have multiple implications, starting with Russia finally becoming less paranoid of both shale gas and oil linked gas prices.
- The French resource potential for oil is 4.7 Billion barrels. With most of them in the Paris Basin and under the depressed banlieue of Eastern Paris itself, one can say with a great deal of certainty that if the French Greens see shale as a red line, President Hollande, given a matter of time, will surely cross it.
- One obviously cannot cry any longer for Argentina when they have 802 TCF gas and 27 Billion barrels of oil. Argentina has a chance to erase the past 100 years and become the country of the future that it was pre World War 1. Don't, for that matter, cry either for Brazil, or even Paraguay or anywhere in the Southern Cone.
But as, with so much else, China is the future. However, with a resource equal to the US of1115 TCF of gas and 32 billion oil barrels, this is not only China’s fortune. This is the great good luck of the planet earth - even if it is a catastrophe for European greens. Let me elaborate :
In 2011, global CO2 emissions, using the BP Statistical Review of World Energy (itself to be updated on June 12) were 34,032 Million tonnes, of which China had 8,979 million. We can reasonably expect that at least half of those came from coal fired generation which gives 4500 million tonnes or 13% of the world total. On 2011 figures, if China replaced coal with natural gas, we could reduce world CO2 levels by 6.5%.
- Greens would say this hope is totally unrealistic. But going forward, with gas volumes as now revealed in China, that may be as unrealistic as shale gas itself once was - i.e. problematic, but no longer impossible.
- Six and a half per cent reduction, or 2250 million tonnes then has to be compared with the EU total emissions of around 4,000.
- The world figures do include generation, oil, industry, and agricultural CO2 emissions BTW
- If we include energy efficiency and the Green Holy Grail of 100% renewable generation strategy, Europe would still save less than the Chinese would save if they simply went for a coal to gas future.
Simply put, as Dieter Helm and Bjørn Lomborg have pointed out, we don’t have a climate change problem caused by European emissions. We have a Chinese Coal problem. Which now appears solvable.
The essential narrative behind European energy policy has been that Europe has the moral imperative to save the earth and the means to do so. According to the narrative of Kyoto 1997, the Stern Review 2006, and UK Climate Change Act of 2008, there was no alternative - and with the facts of those years, there most assuredly was not. But the facts have changed, and those who don’t want to accept that change, will have it thrust upon them.
The Climate Holy Grail has been found, first in the Barnett, then in the Marcellus, passing through the Bakken, and yes with even stops in Lancashire, Poland and the Canning Basin. But the last stop will be, like most things in the coming century, in China.
It bears repeating: China shale will certainly be problematic. But is a replacement of much of China’s emissions by 2040 with natural gas any more fantastical a notion than a 100% renewable future? If so, the Fractivists have to start traveling the planet they profess to wish to save. Let them look at these kids and convince them - and us - to leave shale gas and oil in the ground: