Mitigation makes significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions possible

A team of researchers led by McGill University has concluded that greenhouse gas emissions could be significantly reduced if a variety of mitigation options are globally implemented.

Around a quarter of the world’s electricity comes from power plants fired by natural gas, which significantly contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The most recent figures have estimated that power plants fired by natural gas are accountable for about 10% of energy-related emissions.

Now, a team of researchers led by McGill University has gathered data from 108 countries around the world to quantify emissions by country. The team estimated that total global carbon dioxide emissions from the life cycle of gas-fired power are 3.6 billion tonnes each year. It was concluded that this amount could be reduced by around 71% if a variety of mitigation options were implemented globally.

The team published their paper, ‘Global mitigation opportunities for the life cycle of natural gas-fired power,’ in Nature Climate Change.

Greenhouse gas emissions could be significantly reduced with more efficient plants

“We were astonished by how large the potential reduction in greenhouse gases could be by 2050, and even by 2030,” said Sarah Jordaan, an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and the Trottier Institute in Sustainability in Engineering and Design at McGill University and the first author on the paper.

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“If natural gas is going to play a role in a low carbon future, even for a transitional period, there will be a need to improve efficiency in power plants and to cut methane emissions from natural gas production as well as to capture and store CO2.”

“We found that the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was with carbon capture and storage, followed by making power plants more efficient,” added Andrew Ruttinger, a PhD student at Cornell University in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “But the mitigation options that will be most successful in any given country will vary depending on the regional context and the existing infrastructure.”

Identifying the largest emitters drives government action

The team concluded that the largest potential for mitigation (39%) lies with the five biggest emitters: the US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. Apart from Japan, these countries are among the largest gas producers and consumers around the world.

“Climate change is a global challenge and achieving a low-carbon energy system points to the need for reducing emissions across the supply chain from gas extraction through end use,” said Arvind Ravikumar, a research associate professor in the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Our analysis demonstrates that significant efforts are needed to transition from current emissions levels, but also that by identifying the drivers of emissions in the gas supply chain, governments can take strategic, nationally-determined action to reduce their emissions.”

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