LNG is it a Bridge Not Far Enough?

“Things” Are Getting Better

Saudi Arabia 1991 was my first overseas job out of Europe. The view of Al Jubail at night was awe-inspiring back in those days. We could drive out of town to the industrial zone in the company pick-up truck and check out the various industrial plants lit up in the distance, it was space-age to us then. The Saudi’s reliance on oil only had created these many plants producing by-products from the oil process such as Ethylene, Naptha, Kerosene and so many other chemical processes producing plastics used in almost every level of modern society. We would drive carefully by, surreptitiously taking photographs but ever mindful of the Saudi’s overbearing security presence. Remember this was in the days before mobile phones with good cameras installed. A flash from my compact Pentax would alert security guards or police and almost every main road had a security checkpoint where cameras could be confiscated.

The main shock at the time was the view of all the gas being burnt off from flare stacks countrywide. They looked great at night and roared constantly like some ferocious dragon in a fantasy movie.

In those days we were just becoming generally more aware of global warming as a phenomenon, but it would be a few more years before investment would be raised to convert those greenhouse gases into cleaner fuel. The technology was just starting to produce LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) as a cleaner fuel to power energy generators worldwide. My next quest was to find work as a specialist in the LNG industry. Cryogenic insulation techniques were required and that was my next area of specialisation. The industry is always slow to let go of older established engineering and getting new materials and processes approved took forever despite more obvious advantages. Previous inventions and higher up the food chain royalty agreements kept the majors from accepting innovations in materials. Costs savings are not always an incentive, or obvious, to a design engineer whose name is on a specification should something go wrong later.

I am a big fan of anything that will bring cleaner energy because that is the future, but lobbyists and traditionalists, along with corruption stops politicians from encouraging the new unless there are votes in it. Conservatism against radical innovation swings backwards and forwards with the money. Governments will not see the wood for the trees until many of those trees are gone and will not grow again.

Is a Bridge Not Too Far Enough?

LNG as a fuel is much cleaner than coal as an energy production process, reducing carbon dioxide by 50% and it is not feeding those dragons at the flares. Can we wait for the predicted 30 years or more to convert to zero-emission energy production? Technology is making those plants more efficient and even the use of LNG as a fuel to power ships is taking off. More investment by governments in the form of subsidies are now needed to encourage greener methods but again there are always those siren voices that speak in whispers to politicians, or promise backhanders elsewhere to benefit their community, what politician is going to refuse a new school or college in return for a gas plant and the jobs that go with it? There is always somebody who will sow doubt or corruption to persevere with older methods. Politicians must now be braver to force through the greener fuels that society is clamouring for. They must now see that the way forward is a cleaner future, but will the money in conservatism slow them up?

There are many LNG plants and terminals worldwide and they are predicted to be profitable but are they the bridge like a hybrid car to all-electric? Those countries that will be bold enough to put a greener cleaner policy at the forefront of their energy production will steal a march on others in the form of newer innovative products and techniques but will point to poorer countries who are still using outdated dirty energy sources and will produce carbon from coal power. Until a major like China or Russia commit to cleaner fuels we will struggle. Hybrid cars will be banned in the UK in 2035, will they do the same with LNG when, as the UK government is announcing that every home will be powered by wind by 2030?

Who will be persuaded to buy a Hybrid or Bridge while benefitting from the cheaper energy? Will they remember the rush to Diesel cars as a cheaper option and then when the population switched, raised the taxes on that fuel? One of the most successful industries of recent times has been aviation and cheaper travel which was then taxed cruelly under the guise of environmental protection. The bottleneck seems to be as always politicians, taxes, and corruption. Corruption in the form of our air, and politician’s pockets. What party can refuse cash investments to stay in power, the answer as always is to follow the money.

If You Can’t Beat Them Bribe Them

There are many ways to skin a cat is an old expression. To win the politicians views over to a cleaner greener future, campaigners must learn to fight dirty. The lobby for wind and solar energy companies might consider joining together to form an alliance and also to use their power with suppliers and contractors to create a form of ‘slush’ fund to support their lobbying. Where the pharmaceutical companies held sway now is the time maybe for the organic and naturopathic companies to join forces with alternative energy sources. A small percentage contribution as a lobbying fund, a persuader of politicians to undermine the older dirty industries competition. A Green Union that puts aside any of their own conflicts and even accepts some of the bridge solutions, a compromise that new technology will invent the answers to, or is that a pipedream?

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