Guardian's half-baked hatchet job misses mark... and the point
8 September 2022
CURIOUSLY, a column posted on the Guardian Australia blog today ignores the very details it sought from Gas Energy Australia (GEA), instead meanders on a seemingly ideological rant against all-things gas.
"When approached by media we engage in good faith," GEA CEO Brett Heffernan said. "So, it's disappointing the effort we put into addressing the very specific issues Guardian Australia raised were, to all intents and purposes, ignored. I'd like to think that's not because the facts and evidence provided don't fit with a pre-determined narrative.
"In its piece, Guardian Australia posed the question if renewable gas is 'all hot air', but then left out all the very details explaining it.
"We're not after free-kicks, just a fair go."
Here GEA posts the Q&A exchange between Guardian Australia (GA) and Mr Heffernan verbatim so anyone interested can make-up their own minds as to the bona fides of renewable gases.
1. GA: Mr Heffernan wrote that gas producers could deliver 100% renewable and net-zero gas with minimal changes to the distribution system. He also highlighted the cost for households of electrifying homes and moving away from gas appliances. But wouldn't households also have to partially or entirely replace appliances once hydrogen blends get above about 20%? This isn't mentioned in the article.
Heffernan: That's true of hydrogen, but biomethane (methane produced from landfill waste) and biopropane (produced as a sustainable aviation fuel by-product) are chemically identical to their fossil counterparts and as such require no change in appliances. These gases can tap into Australia's existing delivery network, especially cylinders and tankers, with the result net zero emissions. These organic gases generated in perpetuity present exciting possibilities, especially for the portable gas sector. It's a game-changer. Australian gas is transforming into a decarbonised energy source.
Further, Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), which is a diesel-like fuel produced without fossil resources by processing renewable waste lipids and Synthetic Gas are also being developed right now. The Sustainable Aviation Fuel market, which is expected to be a big industry in Australia, will see rLPG produced as a by-product and is expected to be ample for meeting the needs of the Australian rLPG market.
It makes sense to have as many runners in the renewables race as possible and gas is very much in the mix.
2. GA: Mr Heffernan wrote that Australian gas is "decarbonising"? How is natural gas "decarbonising" when it adds to CO2 in the atmosphere when it's burned?
Heffernan: Biomethane and biopropane release some carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when they are used. But these CO2 emissions would be released anyway if the organic matter that is used for biomethane or biopropane production would simply be left to decompose, thus making them net zero renewable gases.
The task before all industries is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, or sooner if possible. These practical examples (above) do not rely on fossil gas, but are alternatives to it. The Australian gas sector is already testing these renewable gases for their feasibility, efficacy and applicability, as are other countries around the world. At GEA we have modelling underway exploring all of these options, looking at the most practical paths to net zero over the years ahead.
3. GA: Mr Heffernan wrote the gas sector "is well on the way to decarbonise through renewable gases". Australia is producing about 5500 PJ of gas, with about 169 PJ used residentially and 469 PJ used in gas-fired electricity plants. Can you say how much "renewable gas" is being produced by the sector?
Heffernan: (As mentioned above). The question assumes reliance on natural gas. The gas sector is looking to decarbonise using alternate renewable gases from a variety of sources.
We know gas (as it is today) will be lower carbon emitting than electricity for at least the next 15 years due to the emissions intensity of grid-connected generators in Australia, largely dominated by coal generation. So no-one is seriously suggesting switching gas off any time soon. Indeed, as Dr Alan Finkel has noted, gas will be essential as a back-up for renewables for decades to come. The gas sector supports the development of solar and wind. They do generate baseload power... some of the time. As South Australia saw in June, without gas the state would have been in blackout for multiple days as the sun didn't shine and the wind didn't blow. But the real benefit to homeowners and businesses will be the roll-out of new renewable, net zero gases in the meantime, which can be used in their current settings, using existing appliances and equipment, without drawing on what will be an electricity grid under immense pressure in terms of costs and reliability.
Again, Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) being develop in Australia now is very exciting. The research is demonstrating that 30% of current LPG demand is able to be met by just three proposed HVO plants in Australia.
Biomethane is already being produced around Australia and used for generating electricity. The next step is to inject this biomethane into the gas networks to decarbonise. One example of this is the Malabar project run by Sydney Water and Jemena. They are upgrading biogas produced from the anaerobic digestion process at Sydney Water's Malabar wastewater treatment plant to biomethane for injection into the gas distribution network.
The production and utilisation of these biogases is well advanced internationally, however, the hold up in Australia has been due to slow adoption of policies and incentives to drive the production and uptake of these renewable gases.
Can I add (Mr Heffernan continued)...
In a very practical sense, Gas Energy Australia recognises the sensible, pragmatic response from the ACT Government in ensuring gas remains part of the Capital's energy future. People may be surprised by our praise for Minister Rattenbury, but he is clearly across his brief and open to the opportunities on the horizon. He deserves immense credit for that. We had the opportunity earlier this year to brief the Minister on the development of emerging renewable, net zero gases, so we are pleased to see the capacity for these exciting new technologies can be part of the ACT's future for households and businesses.
The ACT Government's plan to ban gas connections in new suburbs has been on the cards for some time. So it's a triumph for pragmatism that cafes, bars, restaurants and other businesses in the new areas will still be able to install gas cylinders for their needs. It is also confirmed homeowners in those new areas who prefer the immediacy, effectiveness and reliability of gas heating, cooking and hot water can continue to do so via cylinders connected to the home.
Many people find that electric heating is slow to kick-in, hard to regulate and ineffective. Gas is not only better, but with providers moving to renewable and net zero gases homeowners and businesses will be able to choose the renewable technology they want to use, while delivering the same net zero result for the climate.
Preventing homeowners and businesses from tapping into renewable, net zero gas networks would make no sense. It represents the same net zero outcome for the environment, for a better heating and cooking product, without placing added burden on the electricity network.
Next Latest News:
25/9/2022 Gaslighting over costs of energy switch
Previous Latest News:
31/8/2022 No time to abandon gas