The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

News at WGC2018: Natural Gas and the Energy Future

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 29, 2018

Closing day at WGC2018. I attended great panels on the innovation that will carry the natural gas industry into the foreseeable future and one on the “game-changers” looming ahead for industry. Big takeaways:

  • Natural gas is the linchpin for a clean energy future – from its own clean attributes and by partnering with intermittent energy technologies such as wind and solar.
  • America’s energy abundance, seen especially in record production of natural gas, is critically important to U.S. energy and economic security.
  • Technology and innovation, which already play a big role in today’s natural gas and oil production, will drive greater efficiencies and productivity in the years ahead.

Cleaner, Thanks to Natural Gas

As noted in this post, natural gas as they key to energy security and environmental progress was top of mind at the conference all week. Reducing methane emissions from natural gas production has and is occurring – down 14 percent since 1990 – and industry initiatives such as The Environmental Partnership are pledged to extend that progress going forward.

Natural gas itself is helping make the air cleaner – it’s the leading reason U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are at their lowest levels in 25 years. The Environmental Defense Fund’s Fred Krupp:

“Natural gas has already helped clean the air. Natural gas has the potential to also help lower greenhouse gas emissions. We’re excited about the possibility of data and technology (helping) to accelerate natural gas becoming cleaner and living up to its promise (of helping address climate issues).”

Natural gas already is living up to its “brand promise,” as Krupp put it. Companies are highly motivated to capture as much methane as possible for delivery to customers. Here's a response from EQT Corporation’s Rob McNally (pictured below):

“We do our best to measure methane releases, and in the last report in 2017 we’re now down to .28 of a percent, so about one-quarter of 1 percent of the gas we produce we think we lose. Five years ago, that number was about triple that. In that time we’ve replaced over 550 pneumatic valves and we’ve really ramped up the monitoring program, using some of the technologies that people have mentioned – satellite technology, drilling technologies – and have spent real time and money fixing pipes and fixing valves, which is the biggest issue for us. We fully agree that as an industry we need to live up to that reputation.”  


Renewables’ Partner

We heard all week that calling natural gas a “bridge fuel” misses the importance of natural gas now and in the future. (So don’t call it that.)

API’s Marty Durbin and others stressed that abundant, affordable natural gas is “foundational” for the world’s energy future – because of its unique attributes as a fuel for generating electricity, as well as its uses to manufacture products people depend on in their modern lives.

Rice University’s Ken Medlock called natural gas a “destination” energy source – although that opens a new discussion about where that destination is and whether, by the time you arrive, there’ll be another destination on the horizon.

What’s clear is that natural gas has an extremely important role to play alongside renewable energy. Barbara Humpton of Siemens Corporation (pictured below):

“The data is overwhelming. We know that half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to reliable electricity. Period, full stop. … Overall market will grow. Couple that with data that tells us that wind and solar are on the rise. Intermittent renewables need a complementary technology, and we’re convinced natural gas is there and will be there for the long haul.”


Zinke: The Moral Case for Natural Gas

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the Trump administration is all-of-the-above on energy and stressed the administration’s desire to partner with industry to sustain and grow U.S. energy production.

Zinke said U.S. energy abundance has special implications for military veterans like himself. The United States should not have to fight for secure energy when domestic supplies are abundant and available, he said. Zinke:

“I spent 23 years as Navy Seal commander. Quite frankly, I don’t want your kids to ever see what I’ve seen. There’s a lot of reasons to fight, but fighting for energy is not one of them – not when energy is (domestically) abundant. As a nation I think it’s morally wrong to deploy troops to fight for energy resources when we can supply the world. From an American point of view, the world is a lot safer when America is strong.”


Quick Hits

Also heard at WGC2018:

  • The future of natural gas depends on the future of natural gas in Asia – which depends on natural gas’ price competitiveness with coal, still king in China. – Ken Koyama, Institute of Energy Economics, Japan
  • The pillars of energy in the future will be similar to those used to measure an energy source’s position today: affordability, availability, sustainability and reliability. – Octavio Simoes, Sempra LNG & Midstream
  • Limited supply sources for cobalt and lithium, which are integral in batteries, is worrisome – especially in a country such as the United States, which is already so dependent on those technologies. – Melanie Kenderdine, Energy Future Initiative

To Close, The Juggler

So what's a major energy conference -- especially one that opened with a marching band and an appearance by the Harlem Globetrotters -- without a juggler as the closing act? Kudos to Energy Worldnet for one of the most creative attention-getters on the WGC2018 exhibition floor – a juggler performing with hoops, balls and, of course, juggling clubs. Earlier in the week, we hear that Santa Claus made an appearance at EWN’s booth. Asked if she is an EWN employee – training as part of the company’s employee benefits program, perhaps? – the juggler replied: “I am today!” Bravo!


More #WGC2018 coverage from the @EnergyTomorrow Twitter feed:


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.