Industry makes a case for natural gas

(L to R) Mansar, Lee, Eik, unmentioned, Subedar

(L to R) Sabeur Mansar, Arthur Lee, Arne Eik, Afzal Subedar (second to right) and Laurent Fragu (right)

With COP 18 taking place on the grounds of the third largest natural gas reserve in the world, a side event addressing the industry’s approach was well in order. Organized by Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), a global association of natural gas companies and the industry’s main connection to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the side event served to “explore the expanding role of natural gas and make a link to climate change,” according to Sabeur Mansar, Vice President Commercial and NBD at Shell, Qatar.

“Qatar is the largest producer of liquefied natural gas, producing 77 million tons per annum,” he said, “there’s no better place or time to have this conversation.”

Arthur Lee, representing IPIECA, gave an overview of how natural gas is gradually taking a load off coal in projected estimates of fuel usage worldwide. He said that over the next ten years, the retirement of coal fired power plants will range anywhere from 11 to 22 percent depending on the price of natural gas rising or lowering, respectively, according to demand. With new exploratory techniques, however, the location and extraction of more natural gas from reserves worldwide has served to drive the cost down, he said.

“Natural gas has an enhanced role in power generation in scenarios that put a price on carbon emissions,” Lee said.

The industry has taken a great interest in understanding the precise GHG impact of natural gas systems, he added, with strategies in place to better manage emissions and compare the use of alternate technologies at every stage of its procurement and life cycle.

“In mitigation scenarios,” Lee said, “natural gas coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS) plays an important role in the later half of this century, if and when there is an actual price on carbon.”

Since 2005, there’s been a decoupling of the price of oil and natural gas, with the later lowering significantly, again based on increased resource estimates. Natural gas has therefore experienced an increased level of usage in power generation and industry and is gaining interest as an export.

“It’s very well known that natural gas has half the carbon emissions as coal on a unit energy basis,” Lee said. “It’s a significantly better environmental performer than coal, and this has lead to US emissions reductions.”

Lee said that an independent body, the National Petroleum Council, comprised of experts from the petroleum industry, consultants, scientists and others, formed at the request of policy makers to evaluation natural gas technologies.

“We believe that gas is a not only a transition fuel but also a destination fuel,” Mansar said, beginning Shell’s portion of the event. “Science tells us that there is a cap to the amount of CO2 we can put in the atmosphere—as energy demand doubles, we have to halve CO2 emissions. There is no silver bullet. We need to manage the demand. We need input and to work together.”

Mansar spoke of the global energy mix predicted through 2050, with gas being a cornerstone since it is a cheap option among the alternatives. At the current rate of production, he said, there is enough natural gas to last 250 years.

Mansar explained halving of CO2 emissions must coincide with the projection of a doubling in global energy demand due to a future shift of many rural poor to urban and energy-intensive conditions

Mansar explains that halving of CO2 emissions must coincide with the projection of a doubling in global energy demand due to a future shift of many rural poor to urban and energy-intensive conditions

“We [Shell] see an interplay among renewable and natural gas,” Mansar said. “Renewables need gas, and the world needs both. Renewables need gas, because when wind is not blowing and sun is not shining, gas can fill the void.”

Mansar spoke of Shell’s long-term commitment to R&D related to natural gas, specifically gas-to-liquid (GTL) technology. “We’ve been committed to this for three decades,” he said.

“We believe there is a gas revolution, and it’s up to us to seize the opportunity. Gas needs to enjoy a level playing field … a robust trading scheme … carbon capture and storage projects … adequate regulations.”

Arne Eik, lead consultant, responsible for climate policy and market analysis at Statoil, a company overseeing the second largest exports of gas to Europe said: “We are facing a massive challenge. [Mitigating] the two degree scenario [in reference to the temperature rise that scientists predict would cause significant sea level rise] is very hard to reach, but we cannot give up.”

Under a more stringent climate policy, emissions costs would be higher, he said, and this is a development fully supported by Statoil and the industry.

“We have a climate strategy consisting of several elements,” Eik said. “We’re focusing on carbon efficiency with 2020 targets for various types of oil and gas. We’re focused on development and renewables; we want to bring gas to the market as a sustainable solution.”

On behalf of Statoil, Eik said that the EU ETS should remain the cornerstone of the climate policy in Europe—“If we don’t see higher prices than we see today, we will not see investments in cleaner technology, and we will not se switching from coal to gas. We would like to strengthen the EU ETS short term and long term, take out allowances … there are a lot of allowances now due to the special circumstances … we think it’s justified to remove allowances as a one-off thing to do… it’s important to have established emission reduction targets that stimulate fuel switching and investment in cleaner technology.”

Eik explains the constant natural gas demand projected over time compared to a drop around coal and oil

Eik explains the constant natural gas demand projected over time compared to a drop around coal and oil

Afzal Subedar, management specialist at Qatargas, spoke about GHG strategies in place at one of Qatar’s two major natural gas companies. Known for its Ras Laffan terminal and refinery, QatarGas is a venture between Qatar Petroleum, Total, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Mitsui, Marabeini, Idemitsu Kosan and Cosmo Oil.

“Our accounting and emissions reporting is based on EU ETS,” he said. “From 2009 onward we’ve come through evaluations with flying colors—there have been some challenges but we are very happy that we have overcome those, and we are trying to best manage our inventories and programs.”

He described a US$ 1billion project, Jetty Boil-Off Gas (JBOG) Recovery Project, which is “the largest environmental project of its kind in the world and purely environmental.”

It enables boil-off gas to be collected from RasGas and Qatargas LNG ships for compression at a central facility. When it’s fully operational, he said it will recover about 29 billion standard cubic feet per hear of gas that would have otherwise been flared (with a 90 percent recovery efficiency). This, he said, would be enough to power more than 300,000 homes and result in GHG emissions reductions of 1.6 million tons per annum.

Subedar explains specific strategies Qatargas has deployed since 2006 to address GHG emissions

Subedar explains specific strategies Qatargas has deployed since 2006 to address GHG emissions

Since the GHG strategies between Qatargas and RasGas align, Laurent Fragu, Environmental Engineering Specialist at RasGas, picked up from Subedar’s presentation to expand on his company’s role as related to and in line with Qatar’s sustainability goals. RasGas is a venture between Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil known for its Barzan gas and Ras Laffan helium projects. Fragu explained the efforts it’s making to reduce emissions at each step of the value chain, including acid gas removal, liquefaction, tail gas treatment to reduce emissions and increase efficiency, flare minimization, common facilities to reduce cargo emissions, large gas carriers with specialized engines and overall terminal enhancements to increase efficiency.

“Sustainability initiatives are part of the 2030 national vision,” he said. “We are currently looking at zero discharge for wastewater management, a biodiversity program and more approaches to mitigate environmental impacts.”

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Fresh Insight on Social Media, Adaptation Technology, Renewable Energy, and Agriculture

Social media panel, Wiese (center to right), Keith and Thanki

The first side event of the day, Supporting climate policies through social media—opportunities and limits, drew its opening statements and overall inspiration from the Arab Spring movement as based largely on Twitter and social media tools. The panelists started with some remarks about technological tools and how to use them to affect climate change and then opened the floor to the audience, who were in large part users of social media and thus citizen journalists ready to get in on the discussion. The topic is not only relevant to the region because of its recent history but is also important to consider since Qatar is growing so fast with few traditional media outlets—and residents from too many backgrounds to call any of them traditional—to connect its people. It therefore relies heavily on social media for keeping people informed and any type of marketing.

Josh Wiese, COP18 coordinator of Adopt a Negotiator,  said that the huge transformations in the region relied on social media, which spread messaging and helped people organize. On other issues as well, like human rights, climate change and the anti-poverty movement, social media is useful and there are lots of innovative uses for it, he said.


Kelly Rigg, Executive Director of the GCCA, via Skype at the panel discussion

Social media provides for two critical roles in climate negotiations, said Iaian Keith, Avaaz.org campaigner. The first is to inform—“mainstream media has turned its back on climate change and there is very little coverage except for a few outlets,” he said.

Social media tools like Twitter and Facebook have given ordinary people a voice where there wasn’t one before and this has lead to higher levels of accountability. “Now there are tweets to negotiators and environmental ministers; they know that people are watching and that in and of itself is a powerful thing,” he said.

The second role is negotiating. “When you get 197 ministers in a room for days, it’s a pressure cooker,” he said. “Social media is so powerful in the last hours—it doesn’t take long for a message to create more pressure on certain issues.”

Nathan Thanki of Earth in Brackets offered a different perspective saying that social media is frustrating to him–it has potential because it’s instantaneous, widespread and catchy but when applied to this process at the UNFCCC, it hasn’t been used to the fullest. “Social media combines the misinformation,” he said. “The UNFCCC is cryptic. While a good use of twitter is purely informational, in terms of dealing with the issues this space is trying to deal with, it means a forced simplicity.

“How do you summarize and provide in-depth or meaningful analysis about the most complicated and pressing issue that humans have ever faced? [Social media] creates an opportunity for misinformation … misinterpretation of what is going on,” he continued.

“The internet is like walking into a house party,” Keith said. “You’ve got all these people in groups having conversations and you’re trying to figure out what conversation you’re trying to join—what hits you?”

Humor and topics that hit on a deep, personal level draw people, he said, but the most important factor is ‘moment,’ he said.  “Moment is the most compelling tool—you have to speak to people where they are right now … campaigners often make the mistake of not hitting people where they are right now.”


Iaian Keith, AVAAZ campaigner, sums up effective social media strategies at COP18

The field of journalism is no longer separate from those of activism and relationship management, Wiese said. “We used to fit these things into boxes, we can’t fit them in anymore … it’s very much about what’s happening in real time now.”

The audience participation in this event was high. The question: “What is real and what is negotiation theatre here at COP 18?” prompted an intriguing responses from Thanki and Keith.

“Twitter has absolutely no context,” Thanki said. “We need to think about social media in context … Twitter can be good if it’s seen as a package of social media. Follow up with blogs; follow up with Vimeo or Youtube. It can’t just be about collectivism and the fact that I have no idea how to respond [quickly] to that question highlights the issue.”

“Let’s  go back to the idea of debate,” Keith added. “Real or not, none of the countries is happy with what’s on offer here. They are all using [COP 18] as an opportunity to exert their own national issues. The problem with media is its focus on conflict through debate.

“Debate is two sides battling it out,” he continued. “If you and I are having a political conversation, I’m trying to change your mind not reach a solution. Until they break out of this ecosystem of argument, we are not going to see a solution. Social media has not gotten us there yet , but it can create an environment like a dinner table rather than a debate, with people sitting down, ears wide open, ready to exchange ideas.”

The side event, Supporting institutional capacities for climate change research and training lessons-learned, featured discussion about technological tools being used worldwide to incorporate research findings into adaptation schemes used to deal with specific, localized impacts of climate change.

Netatua Pelesikoti, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, talked about disaster risk reduction and how that is being incorporated into education at the primary and secondary school level. She specifically talked about how programs are targeting young social and physical scientists in the Pacific region and encouraging them to push their research findings into peer review channels. “It’s important to capture the lessons learned on the part of small islands,” she said, explaining that her organization has entered into partnerships with several universities to achieve this. She said that climate change communication strategies  and knowledge management are important components in the effort to make sure that the discoveries make a real impact.

Chris Jack, of the Climate System Analysis Groupe, University of Cape Town, spoke of information coming out of climate models, saying it is useful for large and long time scales, but misses the mark for many. “We are trying to adjust information to smaller scale shorter term,” he said. “Climate is complex, and local feedback and context is not captured by climate projection models. We are trying to work with people at local scale and communities to provide them with information that  is relevant as we learn about their local environments.”

He said that his organization’s work is increasingly focused on understanding historical trends of the weather. A big red flag on the ground these days, he said, is that people are depending on one, single climate change model to inform decision making for variegated environmental conditions. “Maladaptation is a big concern for us,” he said.

His sentiments echoed yesterday’s agricultural discussion in which panelists promoted forms of agriculture more sensitive to local conditions and realities.

Referring to the Climate Information Portal, or CIP, Jack said that initially the focus was on disseminating data, but they soon came to realize that people were downloading without understanding it. “We’ve developed more guidance information to help people use the information better,” he said. “We’re trying to understand how people are using data, how we are presenting it and this is it’s also useful for training … a platform where people can engage with data, and we can work with them to help them use it.

“The most important thing is that it’s allowed us to provide feedback to scientists about what is useful and who is being represented, misrepresented and how it can be improved.”

Tahia Devisscher, of the Stockholm Environment Institute,  spoke of the weADAPT platform, an interactive database in use around the world, which depends on links to knowledge partners.

“We strongly believe in collaboration and collective action to tackle learning and adaptation,” she said. “No single tool or method fits all purposes.”

Devisscher describing the weADAPT platform

weADAPT runs on semantic technology, and links people and organizations that work with climate adaptation around the world. “You can let people know your interests and connect with people who are doing work that is similar to yours,” she said.

People can share findings as case studies and that all of the information is organized around initiatives. “Topics are managed by our knowledge partners—they play the roll of editors of the initiatives, ensuring high quality and credible content,” she said.

The system has recently developed a new interface that allows people to create profiles, like they would on Facebook. Users select information that reflects their circumstances, and the system responds with personalized information so that the user sees what the system can offer them, personally. “The system learns about you, and the semantic technology allows suggestion of what you can read and people you can link with … it’s a new way to attract people to a system,” Devisscher said.

Gifty Ampomah, Environnement et Developpement du Tiers Monde, spoke of community-based risk screening tool and capacity building work she is involved with in several African countries. She described workshop that included local scientists an NGO and a national organization, coming together for a training on vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning. The training relied on “toolkits” involving conceptual mapping and assessment of community perceptions about climate change; resources and institutions. “When you talk to the people who have gained this capacity, they are happy because they find information they are looking for,” she said. “They used CIP to get the information and were happy to know the existence of this tool.”

Anne Hammill, of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, spoke of CRiSTAL, a tool that provides guidance to project planners in designing and adjusting community based activities to support adaptation, which was developed about eight years ago to help users integrate adaptation activities into their projects. “This is an analytical framework provided to users that helps them identify resources critical to livelihood,” she said.

Hammill describing the CRiSTAL interface

Through the characterization of livelihood and resources in specific locations, she said adaptation strategies might be more feasible.

Libasse Ba, of Environmet et Developpement du Tiers-Monde, said  coaching needs to be looked at.  “The problem we are facing is the lack of coaching and the lack of institutional framework to replicate this kind of training at a different level. We are talking in terms of support—we need to develop experience with journalists from the local community, to simplify and transfer knowledge to the local level.”

Insights from the Special report on renewable energy sources and climate change proved engaging reminders of the need for consideration around where renewable energy technology is now in terms of capability and financial impacts.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Vice-Chair kicked off the discussion of the special report by saying that the demand for energy is only going to increase, so if the international community wants to stabilize the temperature, global emissions must peek soon.

“Potential emissions from remaining fossil resources could result in concentration levels far above 600ppm,” he said. “If we want to protect climate according to the consensus of the international community and keep levels low enough to do this, we cannot use the energy sources that are being used today.”

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele discussing the rising use of renewable energy as measured against a low starting point

He said what has become a repeated theme at these side events, that renewable energy is increasingly in use around the world. Yet, he cautioned resting on laurels by qualifying this rate against a small usage to begin with, worldwide.

Looking at the types of energy demand, specifically electricity, heat and primary energy, van Ypersele said that alternatives sources as studied would provide well enough for the energy demands in place today, and findings of the report show that there are no technical blocks to their usage.  Deployment of renewable energy technology leads to stabilization of GHG and lowering of levels over time.

John Christensen, Head of the UN Riso Centre, talked about how to view renewable energy in a broader sustainability context, particularly in terms of combined benefits. In light of growing development, growing consumption and growing GHGs, he said renewable energy can make a contribution. He called on data sets and projections in slides from the IPCC. Graphs showed the well-known fact that with high income comes high energy consumption, yet he noted how some industrialized countries with similar GDPs have different consumption levels.

Strong efforts were made, he said, to link sustainable development assessment with the technical and policy chapters used in high-level negotiations. He said their report was among the last to be submitted because they took time to ensure that the sustainability ideas considered ran in parallel with the concepts of sustainability in the policy chapter.

Christensen outlines policy points that were heavily considered in the design of the report

Renewable energy can accelerate access to energy, Christensen said. It also serves as a buffer against supply disruption and changing market conditions.

“1.3 billion people in the world have no access to electricity,” he said, “2.5 to 2.7 billion people don’t have electricity to cook with. Access for all is one of the targets. Renewables can make a dedicated contribution.”

The initiative defines different levels of access according to social services, from general lighting, to healthcare facility access, to school access. The improvements, he said, offer a lot of benefits, including sustains economic development. To really make progress, he said access must foster a focus on productive uses, i.e., agriculture, commercial and transport-related endeavors. “Different technologies contribute to the different levels of access,” he said.

Blocks to wider use of renewable energy, Christensen said, involve misperceptions around its capability and costs. “It’s quite outdated actually the information that’s out there,” he said. “It’s an uphill battle to tell people that ‘what you are reading is not necessarily true.’ We need to take [renewable energy] seriously and put it in development strategy at secondary or top level, to look broader at it than just at the direct cost—the life-cycle aspects are basically beneficial.”

Hugo Lucas, Director of Policy Advisory Services and Capacity Building, International Renewable Energy Agency IRENA, said, “today there are 5 million people working with renewable energy based on US$ 250billion worth of investment. What is IRENA trying to do is develop a renewable energy learning platoform because it demands qualified human skills. People in Europe are suffering to get people with these skills and we want to address their lack with online academic resources.”

Christensen ended on a poignant note to say “[renewable energy] is not a small niche, this is multibillions of dollars and it’s not the kind of backyard operation it was years ago.”

Agricultural in the Climate Talks and the Food Security Imperative: Which way to Just Solutions?

Varikottil (second left to right), Schroeder and Singh

Dr. Haridas  Varikottil, Scientific Advisor on Agriculture and farmer, began this panel discussion with an example of how local farmers adjusted their strategies according to local-specific recommendations based on sound methods that increased their income substantially. “If you are in favor of poor people, people should support independent agriculture,” he said. “We should support farmers directly and we need policy at the national and international level. In developing nations, 75 percent of people are dependent on agriculture … we should help them.”

Anika Schroeder, Policy Officer Climate Change and Development, asked if climate smart agriculture is a blessing or curse. “What I have learned is that once you give power to the people, and once they start to believe in themselves, they are able to perform better than corporates I have seen,” she said. “We are looking into forms of agriculture that brings people, nature, climate, survival together again.”

The big argument on the table, Schroeder explained, is that between mitigation and adaptation. Policy makers promote and fund mitigation strategies that are one-size-fits all, and the panelists called for funding to adaptation strategies that reflect localized realities. “Farmers keep getting money for mitigation but are not getting funds for adaptation,” Schroeder said. “They call it ‘climate smart agriculture’ but the problem with this term is that everything is included—GMOs, pesticides, nitrogen fertilizers.”

She said that mitigation claims around carbon sequestration are not proven by science. Nitrous oxide reduction claims are only partially qualified by scientific findings that show that it takes ten years and can only occur in humid soil types. Claims around reduced CO2 and NO2 with the lessened use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer are only backed when legume crops are rotated into the land-use strategy.

“It is difficult to measure how much carbon is being sequestered,” Schroeder said. “How can you relate unclear sequestration to carbon fuel emissions?”

According to mitigation strategies, Schroeder said that farmers are forced to adopt inappropriate technology at the expense of finding technology that is area specific and possibly less expensive with the potential to produce better outcomes.

She argued that money spent to set up mitigation-based climate smart agriculture amounts to $US 17million. “This is just to set up the climate smart agricultural system, and none of it reaches the grounds that are farmed.”

Harjeet Singh, International Coordinator: Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Adaptation, ActionAid, said that the impact is greatest on small farms. They are the worst hit. “Rising emissions and temperatures means things will go from bad to worse.”

Policy makers are reluctant to promote adaptation as a strategy, he said. Only when it was forced onto the table and into documentation did they discuss it and only in terms of resilient synergies. Agriculture is a natural priority but the prioritization of it is artificially inflated, he explained.

“The emphasis [instead] should rather be on adaptation.”

The work program being promoted at high levels, he said, is being used like a trojan horse to bring mitigation discussions back to the forefront and overshadow the need for investment in adaptation strategies at the local levels.

“They are telling us to use climate-ready seeds. Stop using indigenous knowledge. Stop using adaptation as a strategy.”

The intention is clear that policy makers are using the UNFCCC to push for agro-business strategies, he said. “We should be demanding a focus on adaptation. We don’t need a work program.

“We need to show how agriculture is ruining the quality of soil and water and how market-based solutions and soil carbon sequestration don’t work. Another thing being pushed through is climate smart agriculture—people don’t want to change the way they are doing things so they market agriculture strategies and hand it over saying ‘here’s a package, do it for us.’”


Harjeet Singh gives his view on why adaptation to climate change should not be privatized