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May 2, 2024
Issue 80  |  View Past Issues
Inside Gas
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

Just days after a new regulation to curb U.S. power plant emissions was announced, a Canadian power plant operator has been forced to admit defeat on a carbon capture and storage (CCS) scheme in the works since 2022. Too expensive was the familiar excuse, despite the sinking of substantial public subsidies into the project and the promise of more incentives. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has now placed CCS firmly in the crosshairs of the country’s gas plant developers and the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act includes tax credits to encourage more attempts to roll out the controversial technology. The battle lines are being drawn on this as the U.S.’s top gas producer gears up to focus on piping more gas to power data centers in southeastern states, which it views as a safer bet than LNG exports. All this as the corporate deception behind the promotion of gas as a climate-friendly transition fuel has been glaringly exposed in the U.S. Senate.

To the shock of Russian analysts, Gazprom has reported close to US$7 billion in net losses for 2023 as sales to Europe shriveled. Meanwhile, Europe’s gas dependency shift towards LNG imports, as new analysis from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis points out, is looking increasingly likely to result in major financial losses unless the fetish for excess regasification infrastructure is reined in soon. Proving the point is the latest stark import data from wannabe gas hub Greece.

Grieg Aitken

Features

Business as usual in oil and gas is a high risk strategy for us all

As the take-up of low emissions technologies gathers pace, industry resistance to transition justified by outdated economic mantras is resulting in a major emerging investment risk, writes Harry Benham for Carbon Tracker

Woodside deaf to climate slapdown and blind to burning planet

The recent 58% protest vote against the climate plan of Australia’s top oil and gas producer will be the first of many unless the company turns climate rhetoric into action, writes Adam Morton in The Guardian.  

Proposed South Carolina legislation would provide a blank check to the gas industry

A fast-tracked bill that could increase the U.S. state’s dependence on methane and hand utilities substantial power over consumers has led to the resignation of one energy regulator already and increasing pushback from South Carolina legislators, writes Mario Alejandro Ariza in Floodlight

The double standard of Japan’s energy companies abroad

A recently announced net zero roadmap from Tokyo Gas applies only to its domestic operations while the country’s largest gas utility has quadrupled its LNG trading volumes since 2017 and is barrelling to expand Southeast Asia’s market for the fuel with policy backing from the Japanese government, write Christopher Doleman and Sam Reynolds of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in The Japan Times

Top News

Tidal wave of new supply to flood market amid demand uncertainty — IEEFA’s Global LNG Outlook: In its latest assessment of global LNG markets, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has warned that an impending supply glut will leave LNG suppliers and traders exposed to emerging Asian countries having to absorb massive new volumes of the fuel when a sustained ramping up of demand in the region is far from assured. The scale of new global supply in the pipeline, based on expert projects that are under construction or that are approved by financially capable backers, is calculated by IEEFA to be 193 million tons per year (mtpa) of new supply capacity from 2024 through 2028, which could result in total global nameplate liquefaction capacity of 666.5 mtpa by the end of this period. This would mean a major overshoot of long-term demand scenarios presented by the International Energy Agency, whose stated policies scenario projects total LNG trade in 2050 to reach 482 mtpa. Other than a range of economic and logistical headwinds that are weighing on structural LNG demand growth in emerging Asian markets, Wood Mackenzie recently pointed out that last year the average cost of renewable energy in the Asia Pacific region fell below the average cost of fossil fuels. The energy consultancy expects the cost of renewables in the region will be roughly one-third cheaper than fossil fuels by 2030. In Europe, IEEFA’s analysis finds that proposed import projects could take total LNG regasification capacity to 405 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2030, by which time demand is not likely to exceed 133 bcm. This would result in potentially 272 bcm of unused terminal capacity. (IEEFA, Cipher)

Legal clashes brewing over newly finalized U.S. power sector rules: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized regulations targeting pollution from the country’s coal and gas power plants, a new emissions regime that the federal agency projects will cut 1.38 billion metric tons of carbon pollution by 2047. For gas plants specifically, operators of only new baseload plants that run frequently will be required to cut their emissions by 90% by 2032. With a rethink on requirements for currently operating gas facilities delayed until after the November presidential election, planning for new gas power developments will have to take increasing account of the costs involved in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology following the EPA’s dropping of hydrogen co-firing as a recommended decarbonization pathway. Under the final rule, hydrogen was deemed likely to be more expensive in 2030 than previously assumed in the draft ruling coupled with question marks over its availability. A host of U.S. legislators, state officials, and industry bodies have already gone on the record to say they will challenge the core emissions rule as well as accompanying rules affecting coal plants. “You never like to have to sue,” commented Ben Fowke, the boss of major utility American Electric Power, “but we're going to do what we have to do to defend our grid and our customers that use that grid.” (U.S. EPA, Reuters, Hydrogen Insight, E&E News, Utility Dive) 

Greece imported no LNG in April as start date postponed for new terminal: Greek energy media have reported that commercial operations at the Alexandroupolis floating import terminal, which received an LNG commissioning cargo in February and had been due to start up in the first quarter of the year, have been delayed until mid-May due to technical issues that emerged during the trial phase. The news comes as S&P Global Commodity Insights data showed that Greece imported no LNG in April for the first time in five years. Three planned import cargoes were canceled due, it’s thought, to the availability of cheaper piped gas from Azerbaijan and Türkiye. The 4 mtpa capacity Alexandroupolis facility was announced in 2017, and four other import terminals with combined capacity of 15 mtpa have also been proposed in the last few years as part of Greece’s ambitions to become an import hub for southeast Europe. A Greek NGO has also notified Inside Gas that local fishers have recently complained about a drop-off in fishing stocks near the floating Alexandroupolis facility, which is located in the Thracian Sea in an area known as a rich fishing zone. (S&P Global)

Major document release reveals industry efforts to cover up the climate impact of gas: U.S. Congressional investigators have released a major cache of documents showing how in recent years the oil and gas industry has worked to promote gas as a climate solution despite growing scientific and public awareness of methane’s planet-heating properties. While most previous revelations about the industry’s deception and obfuscation on the role of fossil fuels in driving climate change have been based on internal company documentation dating back more than 50 years, the new documentation amassed by the the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability — including private correspondence, memos, presentations, and talking points from top executives at the majors — dates from November 2015 onwards. One internal BP comment to a draft speech being prepared in 2017 for the company’s then CEO notes: “You don’t say anything about concerns about … the idea that, once built, gas locks in future emissions above a level consistent with 2 degrees, at least without [carbon capture].” Other evidence in the document release also points to the majors’ efforts to greenwash oil and gas by cultivating relationships with elite universities in the U.S. and the UK. A professor at the University of Princeton who has engaged with the majors also noted that they viewed carbon capture technology as expensive and inefficient. (The Guardian, E&E News, ExxonKnews)

Talks to curb plastic pollution frustrated by petrochemical industry: Amid accusations that scientists had been intimidated and harassed by fossil fuel lobbyists during a week of Plastics Treaty talks in Ottawa, Canada, hopes for gaining global agreement on reduced plastic production appear thin ahead of a final summit meeting scheduled to take place in November this year. The U.S., Saudi Arabia, and China were among the major petrochemical-producing nations criticized for blocking progress on the setting up of production limits that a host of other nations view as essential due to petrochemical industry ambitions to triple plastic production from 400 million tonnes per year currently to over 1,100 million tonnes by 2050. A proposal from Rwanda and Peru, calling for a 40% reduction in primary plastic polymers by 2040 based on a 2025 baseline, gained significant backing, while a 28-country coalition pledged to include production caps in the final treaty text to be hammered out in seven months’ time in South Korea. However, these efforts look likely to be frustrated owing to the lack of agreement on a formal negotiating track to tackle production. (Reuters, Gas Outlook, The Associated Press) 

Another high-profile CCS project failure as groups shine light on industry’s “carbon coup” over EU climate policy: A CA$2.4 billion (US$1.75 billion) CCS project intended to avoid 95% of the CO2 emissions from a coal-to-gas converted power plant in the Canadian province of Alberta has been axed by the plant’s owner. Capital Power announced that it was discontinuing development of the Genesee CCS project, which had already received a CA$5 million subsidy from the Government of Alberta, as “it is not economically feasible.” A new report published by  Corporate Europe Observatory and ReCommon exposes how a group set up by the European Commission in 2021 and dominated by the fossil fuel industry, the Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) Forum, has shaped key EU energy policy measures designed to massively scale up CCS, carbon dioxide removals, and related CO2 transport infrastructure. Described in 2023 by EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson as “an opportunity for EU oil and gas producers,” the “Carbon Coup” report details how the Commission’s proposal for an Industrial Carbon Management Strategy, which contains hugely ambitious targets for increasing the bloc’s carbon capture capacity by 450 times over the next 25 years, has been driven by CCUS Forum members’ interests and desire for billions of euros in public subsidies. (Western Standard, Environmental Defence, GEM.wiki, Corporate Europe Observatory [pdf])

“[W]e stress the important role that increased deliveries of LNG can play and acknowledge that investment in the sector can be appropriate in response to the current crisis and to address potential gas market shortfalls provoked by the crisis. In the exceptional circumstance of accelerating the phase out of our dependency on Russian energy, publicly supported investments in the gas sector can be appropriate as a temporary response, subject to clearly defined national circumstances, if implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives without creating lock-in effects, for example by ensuring that projects are integrated into national strategies for the development of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen,”

noted the final communiqué of the G7 climate, energy, and environment ministers at the conclusion of two days of meetings in Turin, Italy. 

News

Argentina: A legislative package proposed by President Javier Milei's administration, which includes measures to promote the development of LNG exports, has been approved by the lower parliament. 

Canada: Plans for a floating work camp to accommodate more than 600 construction workers for development of the Woodfibre LNG terminal in British Columbia have been rejected by the local council due to concerns about the safety of women and girls, traffic issues, waste management, and potential natural hazards.

Cyprus/Greece: A final investment decision (FID), due last year, for the €6 billion (US$6.42 billion) EastMed gas pipeline remains highly uncertain, according to George Papanastasiou, energy minister of Cyprus, due to the high project costs among other reasons. 

Germany: A FID by the utility Leag on an 870 megawatt (MW) hydrogen-ready gas plant, which could take six years to build, is dependent on how Berlin auctions — probably by the end of this year — 10,000 MW of new gas-fired capacity that could convert to hydrogen. 

Japan: Ten new gas-fired units with a combined capacity of 57,600 MW have secured US$1.12 billion in funding as part of the country’s first long-term zero emissions power capacity auction.

Mozambique: ExxonMobil is “optimistic and pushing forward” with its delayed Rovuma LNG project and expects a FID by the end of 2025.
 
Poland: Gas transmission system operator GAZ-SYSTEM has signed a 15-year charter agreement with Mitsui OSK Lines for the delivery and operation of a floating storage regasification unit (FSRU) to serve the proposed 6.1 billion cubic meters per year capacity LNG import terminal in Gdańsk.

Qatar: In the biggest ever LNG shipbuilding deal, China State Shipbuilding Corporation will build 18 vessels for QatarEnergy for delivery between 2028 and 2031. 

Sweden: State-owned utility Vattenfall plans to expand its biomethane and bioethanol trading that it started up last year.

Türkiye: As part of efforts to develop a new supply portfolio and reduce its gas dependency on Russia, energy minister Alparslan Bayraktar has revealed that talks are underway with ExxonMobil on a potential ten-year LNG supply deal involving 2.5 mtpa.

Ukraine: Oleksiy Chernyshov, the CEO of Naftogaz, has called on EU countries to help protect its gas storage sites after a recent series of Russian attacks on facilities in the west of the country.

UK: London-based bank Barclays is facing criticism for helping to arrange €4 billion (US$4.3 billion) in sustainability-linked financing for Eni months after the Italian company announced plans to increase spending on oil and gas extraction by at least a third over four years.

Companies + Markets

Gazprom makes worst loss in decades as U.S. issues new sanctions announcements: Gazprom reported its first annual net loss since 1999 due to falling sales to Europe and lower prices for the fuel. Russia’s state-controlled gas company recorded a net loss of 629 billion roubles (US$6.9 billion) in 2023 following a net profit of 1.2 trillion roubles in 2022. The annual results announcement resulted in a more than 3% drop in the company’s share price. Overall gas sales dropped from 6.5 trillion roubles in 2022 to 3.1 trillion roubles with revenues generated from sales outside Russia taking the biggest hit. These totalled 2.9 trillion roubles last year, sharply down from 7.3 trillion roubles in 2022, a fall off mostly thought to have been driven by a major loss in sales to Europe. The news followed the unveiling of the latest round of U.S. sanctions targeting Russia’s future energy production and LNG export capacity. Among the latest companies involved in the Arctic 2 LNG project to be sanctioned is the shipping operator Red Box. The Singapore-based company has delivered LNG modules from China to the project throughout 2023 and into 2024. At the same time, and amid rising global energy costs, the U.S. Treasury Department has renewed sanctions relief for at least ten Russian banks, including the country’s central bank, to allow energy-related operations. An updated license from Washington authorizes — until November 1, 2024 — energy-related banking transactions for a range of activities including the extraction, production, liquefaction, transportation, or purchase of oil and LNG. (Reuters, Financial Times [paywall], High North News, Ukrainska Pravda) 

Australian court orders activist groups not directly involved in Tiwi Island lawsuit to hand over documents to Santos: In an unprecedented legal ruling in Australia, a Federal Court judge has ordered that communications between the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) and three activist groups be handed over following a failed lawsuit against Santos’ offshore Barossa gas project brought by EDO on behalf of Tiwi Island traditional owners. Subpoenas for paperwork were served on The Sunrise Project Australia, Jubilee Australia Research Project, and Environmental Centre NT, despite the fact that the groups were not directly involved in the lawsuit, while Melbourne-based group Market Forces escaped the order by arguing that it had not made public comments on the case. The groups will be compelled to deliver Santos all documents that record “any payment or indemnity to the applicants or the (EDO)” as the oil and gas company pursues the EDO for legal costs. “This decision is a chilling one,” said Dr. Lily O’Neill, senior research fellow with Melbourne Climate Futures, “for the environmental organizations who cheer on environmental and climate litigation carried out by other people and organizations.” The four groups and Santos all declined to comment citing ongoing litigation. (The Guardian)

Costs double as oil and gas discoveries fell to record low in 2023: The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a body comprising 20 gas-producing countries, has reported that global gas and oil discoveries fell to a record low of 5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) in 2023, a more than 50% drop on 2022 levels. For gas, according to GECF, the exploration cost per BOE rose last year to US$$5.30 from US$2.60 in 2022. Providing additional breakdown, GECF said that 41% of new discoveries in 2023 were made in ultra-deep waters and 30% were made in deepwater sectors, while Asia led the way regionally with 32% of all new oil and gas discoveries. Latin America came second with a 21% share, followed by Europe and Africa, which both had an 11% share. The less than rosy investment climate for the industry has been echoed by the chief executive of VSA Capital, an international investment banking and broking firm. Andrew Monk believes that, particularly for small and mid-sized exploration and production players, securing funding on the London Stock Exchange has not been this difficult for 40 years. Among “a perfect storm of negative factors,” Monk referred to institutional investors placing greater emphasis on environmental, social and governance issues as well as a lack of cash because “asset allocators have withdrawn all the money from institutions, both for equities and, in particular, for the oil and gas sector.” (Oilprice.com, Upstream [paywall])

US$27 billion spend on new gas plants underway in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Latin America-focused business intelligence provider BNamericas has provided details on the buildout of gas-fired power plants in the region. The company’s database captures a total of 152 plants in development across Latin America and the Caribbean, with 55 projects under construction and a further 97 in the “early-works stage.” The overall capital expenditure is estimated at more than US$27 billion. These new developments add to the 162 gas plants already operating in the region. When operating and pre-operational plants are taken together, Brazil has the largest share of projects, with 105, followed by Mexico (69), Colombia (26), Chile (22) and Argentina (21). (BNamericas)

U.S. states sue to overturn new methane leak rule: Four Republican-led states have taken a month to push back against a U.S. federal rule requiring oil and gas drillers operating on public lands to develop plans to detect leaks, make repairs, and minimize methane waste. Texas, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Interior Department in North Dakota’s federal court on the basis that the rule, due to take effect from June and aimed at stopping billions of cubic feet of gas from being vented, flared or leaked, makes extraction more expensive. Elsewhere, as part of a transatlantic satellite image investigation, a former regulator at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality believes that oil and gas producers are installing “enclosed combustors” that hide flaring of unwanted natural gas. These devices, whose deployment by companies is becoming more widespread, are reckoned to be thwarting efforts by scientists to accurately detect greenhouse gas emissions via satellite. The state of New Mexico has also reached a record US$24.5 million agreement with Ameredev following a citizen’s complaint about the Texas-based driller’s excessive flaring in the Permian Basin. (Reuters, Follow the Money [registration required], The Associated Press)

Top U.S. gas producer signals new focus on data centers over LNG exports supply: In the latest indication of the gas-to-data center stampede in the U.S., coming as Microsoft announced the biggest ever corporate renewable energy purchase agreement to power its growing artificial intelligence and cloud computing operations, U.S. gas producer EQT has laid out a switch in corporate focus from supplying LNG export markets to serving new data centers due to spring up in the country’s southeast region. Key to this for North America’s biggest gas producer is its pending acquisition of Equitrans Midstream, whose long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline spanning parts of West Virginia and Virginia is supposed to start transporting gas to southeast markets in early June. With up to 37 new data centers being lined up in northern Virginia, EQT’s Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Knop said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call that the company was now positioning itself for “access to this new opportunity” and that data center power demand was a less risky proposition than long-term LNG supply agreements. Microsoft’s estimated US$10 billion global framework agreement signed with Brookfield Asset Management aims to bring 10,500 MW of renewable energy capacity online in the U.S. and Europe between 2026 and 2030. That equates to the generating capacity of roughly ten nuclear plants. Data centers in the state of Virginia currently require 3,000 MW of power. (Energy Intelligence, Argus, Bloomberg, Financial Times [paywall])

“No one knows them. Very, very weird. Everyone saw the news [on them getting the award in Iraq] but no one knows who stands behind them,” 

said a well-placed industry executive on Ukraine-registered Ukrzemresource taking over the operatorship of the Akkas gas field in western Iraq from Korea Gas Corporation.

Resources

Burning the Bridge to Ostpolitik? Stress-Testing Europe’s Shift from Russian Gas to Renewables Using a Global Energy Model, The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, April 12, 2024. (Pdf)

This 36-page study examines the pivotal juncture that Europe’s energy system finds itself in after the 2022–23 energy crisis and sets out the socially optimal case for public financial support for an accelerated rollout of renewables and associated energy infrastructure investments across the continent. 

Flaring EJ Risk Map, RMI, April 24, 2024

This webtool maps the environmental justice risks that flared gas derived from U.S. oil and gas production poses for the most vulnerable communities.

Bullish Asian gas demand forecasts eroded by renewable surge, Zero Carbon Analytics, April 26, 2024. (Pdf)

This 8-page briefing assesses trends and forecasts for the region including a projected 75% global LNG market dominance by 2050 that is now coming under pressure as renewables are already cheaper than gas power in many countries.