Methane, the primary constituent of LNG, is also a potent GHG. According to the United Nations Economic Council for Europe (UNECE), its 20-year global warming potential is 84-86 times larger than CO2.
The estimated 3% of total worldwide natural gas production lost annually to venting, leakage, and flaring is a significant concern. Energy companies are investing heavily to cut this figure, using the latest technology to monitor and validate the emissions generated in their value chains. i.e., extraction, processing, transportation, distribution, and marketing. Cutting emissions is one tactic, but so is containing and treating generated emissions.
Carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technology will play an essential role in GHG reduction. This technology captures CO2 emissions at the source before being transported and returned to permanent storage in underground geological formations or used as feedstock for other products or services.
When fully developed, CCUS can be applied in the production of Blue Hydrogen (the splitting of natural gas into hydrogen and CO2), where the CO2 is captured, compressed and liquified. In a liquid state the CO2 can be more economically transported either by pipeline or ship to its final storage site.
If carried in bulk at sea, both LNG and CO2, as powerful GHG’s, have the potential to cause considerable environmental damage should there be a vessel emergency involve the release or total loss of cargo. Such events would have the potential to seriously outweigh any gains made during their production, consumption or collection.
Therefore, prevention is most certainly better than cure and should the unthinkable happen, clean-up and restoration in an oil spill context would not be an option.
In terms of the response, monitoring is one possible in-field operation (beyond responding to the casualty). The use of lasers to conduct atmospheric chemistry can measure the infrared absorbing properties and concentrations of the gases with a high degree of accuracy. Such passive techniques, however, may not be enough to satisfy the expectations of Governments and public alike for a more intrusive and tangible response. Proactive stakeholder engagement may be prudent to help manage expectations should the unthinkable ever happen.