Energy transition and natural gas

Transição energética e o gás natural

Natural gas is one of the important fuels for the energy transition, but its maintenance is essential for the economy in the long term.

In recent years, countries have started to think about how to generate clean energy and the need for an energy transition has grown. In this scenario, in which it is not feasible for all nations to opt for a clean and renewable source overnight, natural gas stands out as an important fuel for this transition.

But, going beyond its importance to allow investments to be made in the long term, the fuel also has a function as a raw material for the production of other products. Therefore, it is impossible to say that the future will be mostly of clean and renewable sources, since fossil fuels still have relevance in some processes.

Other uses of natural gas

Currently, natural gas is widely used as a fuel, but little is said about its importance to the world economy as a raw material. Natural gas is used to produce nitrogen fertilizers, petrochemicals, refrigerant for medical devices, carbonated beverages and in the electronics and semiconductor industry. In 2021, for example, world production of ammonia for fertilizers was 150Mton, with 65% of production using natural gas as a raw material.

When talking about an energy transition, there is an expectation that in the future there will be a zero carbon scenario, with successive reductions in the use of natural gas. According to the International Energy Agency, if there is the expected decrease, by 2050, the production and use of natural gas will fall by 900 billion m³/year.

Associated with this, IRENA forecasts global ammonia production growth from 200 Mton in 2021 to 766 Mton in 2050. Without the use of natural gas, 2300 GW of renewable energy would be needed, that is, a growth of 140% in capacity installed total with what there is today in solar and wind energy.

For experts, if by 2050 the world population increases to 9 billion, natural gas production will decrease, increasing costs with cleaner production, it is possible that more people will be impacted by hunger and social inequality. Therefore, an energy transition, seeking the elimination of natural gas, will have unplanned consequences for several economic sectors.

Natural gas in Brazil and energy transition

The great challenge of the energy transition is to reduce CO2 emissions while maintaining the demand for clean and renewable energy for consumers. In this case, Brazil has an advantage over other countries, as it has a largely clean electricity matrix, in addition to having the means to develop other sources, due to the country’s climate and geography.

There are already several companies committed to the reduction targets, having natural gas as a transition fuel for generating less CO2. In addition, it enables a backup, unlike intermittent sources, such as solar and wind.

In Brazil, the gas sector is going through a transition period, with the new gas law, passed in 2021. It will simplify the construction of gas pipelines and access to essential infrastructure, transferring part of the market to the private sector. In the country, the IEA forecasts a decrease in the share of gas from 6.7% in 2030 to 5.5% in 2050.

In the long term, for the decarbonization of the energy sector to take place on a large scale and without harming economic sectors, it is essential to make hydrogen and carbon capture technologies cheaper, while maintaining the necessary amount of fossil sources.

To better understand the importance of the energy transition, read this content on climate change according to the IPCC.