Australia could be left with $26 billion worth of stranded gas pipelines, according to a report that calls the country’s investment in costly new assets “incompatible” with decarbonisation efforts, ABC News reported.
US-based environmental group Global Energy Monitor (GEM) said Australia risked locking in “decades” of fossil fuel dependency amid plans to build more than 12,000km of gas pipelines across the country.
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GEM said the value of gas pipelines either under construction or planned was $26b—the fourth highest amount of any country in the world.
GEM said the spending would make it significantly harder for Australia to help global efforts to keep temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius and was at odds with calls from the International Energy Agency to end fossil fuel development within five years.
This claim is refuted by Australian Pipelines and Gas Association (APGA) head Steve Davies, who said gas was a cleaner fuel than coal and oil, and would be needed in the shift towards green energy.
Davies said many of the projects were competing with each other, meaning some would not go ahead.
“Natural gas will have a long-term role in the global energy mix,” he said.
“It’s a low-emission fuel that is not going to be easily replaced.
“So the continuing use of natural gas, given it is a low-emission fuel, is actually highly compatible with reaching our emissions targets.”
A number of Australian states and territories are cutting back their reliance on gas at a residential level, with the ACT ending a requirement for new housing to have gas infrastructure and Victoria considering a similar initiative.
The decisions have been sparked by the rise of renewable energy, which is pushing out gas as a source of heating and electricity.
Davies acknowledged that the operators of gas pipelines were facing growing risks, but argued the assets would be needed in the fight to combat rising emissions.
He said the industry was investing in research to find out whether fuels such as hydrogen and bio-methane could be transported in bulk via gas pipelines.
Davies also noted that not every major customer could simply substitute renewable energy for gas, saying fuel itself was vital to some manufacturing processes.
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“There is a lot of work going on right now to work out the best way to transport hydrogen, in particular, in natural gas pipelines,” he said.
“Bio-gas is methane, so there won’t be any issue whatsoever transporting bio-methane.
“On the hydrogen side of things, there are challenges, no doubt … but there are a lot of good things happening in that space.”