Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering have revealed that exporting LNG to Asia or Europe will not cause increased greenhouse gas emissions.

The findings were published in the first peer-reviewed paper to research whether exporting LNG is good for the climate in Environmental Science and Technology.

As domestic natural gas production has increased, it has been questioned whether exporting natural gas in the form of LNG to replace gas in Europe or coal in Asia would result in increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The researchers have concluded that, for the most part, it does not.

The team includes Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) and Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Ph.D. student Leslie Abrahams, CEE Assistant Professor Constantine Samaras, EPP Associate Research Professor Mike Griffin and CEE/EPP Professor H. Scott Matthews.

“We went a step beyond just the emissions from exporting the natural gas and looked at how it might be used when it gets to its destination, such as to displace coal or other forms of natural gas,” explained Abrahams.

In the majority of the outcomes the researchers considered, the most likely outcome discovered was that US energy exports would help reduce global GHG emissions.

The paper, titled ‘Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions From US Liquefied Natural Gas Exports: Implications for End Uses,’ has special significance for climate science.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) currently deems the export of LNG to countries that have a free trade agreement (FTA) with the US to be in the public interest, so permits for exports to these countries are approved almost automatically. The highest gas prices, however, exist in non-FTA countries, and exporting LNG to these countries is more difficult.

Abrahams continued: “There has been some recently proposed legislation in the US to expedite the approval process for permits to non-FTA countries. Our research focused on how allowing these exports would impact GHG emissions.”

To illustrate the importance of the proposed changes, the researchers quantified the potential economic benefit of increased LNG exports using the Social Cost of Carbon, a metric by which the US government monetises the estimated impact of energy decision-making.

“Our base case scenario used US LNG to displace coal for electricity generation. That equates to a social savings of US$28 per megawatt hour if you consider the net change emissions from coal to natural gas,” said Abrahams who noted that the scenario resulted in a savings of 550 g/kWh.

The paper also emphasises that the social costs, as well as the benefits, should be taken into account when determining whether increased US LNG exports would be beneficial.


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