As the war in Ukraine continues, decision-makers continue to leave the environment in the face of a new energy priority announced by Brussels: that of ensuring security of supply for the Member States, facing the enormous challenge of replacing 155 billion cubic meters. Russian gas per year, or 40% of their consumption. And for good reason, this dangerous equation is forcing them to turn in all directions to liquefied natural gas (LNG), which comes mainly from the United States.
In any case, this is the argument put forward by Engie, who intends to boost US shale gas in order to cut off Russian gas, which still accounts for 20% of its deliveries. Thus, after being forced to abandon in 2020, under the pressure of the State shareholder (23.64% of the capital) and the environmentalists, a super contract that was negotiated with the American NextDecade for the supply of LNG, the French group finally managed to receive chalice. And it will buy 1.75 million tonnes of LNG a year from the future Rio Grande terminal in Texas from 2026 for fifteen years, NextDecade reported Monday night.
A reversal had already begun in late March, after Engie had then extended a contract with another US group, Cheniere Energy, to buy more LNG than expected for twenty years.
“Current tensions in energy markets have strengthened the relevance of our strategy to diversify our sources of supply to meet our priority: to ensure security of supply for our customers,” said one spokesman.
Carbon footprint much higher than that of gas passing through pipes
The tricolor company, which highlights its ambition to become the ” leader in energy and climate change “, Therefore does not intend to abandon the precious hydrocarbon soon, with these new contracts valid until 2040 and beyond. And yet, LNG, which must be liquefied and then regasified, and which passes through the sea, proves to be at least polluting. In detail, its footprint is 58 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour (KWh) on average, compared to 23 gCO2 / KWh for the “conventional” gas transported through pipelines.
Not to mention that what is produced on American soil goes through a “hydraulic crack”, ie deep drilling, mobilizing large amounts of water and chemicals to break up rocks. A process that has been banned in France since 2011 due to the risk of contamination of groundwater and methane leaks, this greenhouse gas with potential heating 80 times greater than CO2 on a twenty-year scale. In addition, this very point had gathered criticism in 2020 and resulted in the termination of the contract with NextDecade.
But the situation has changed, Engie says today. ” NextDecade has made significant progress by committing to reducing emissions at the Rio Grande terminal by 90%, in particular through a CO2 capture and storage project. “, Assures a representative The gallery. In addition, this gas will be ” (RSG), originating from the main gas producers in the Permia Basin [le plus grand champ pétrolier des Etats-Unis, ndlr] and Eagle Ford “, with “ control by an independent third party “, The team continues.
” Rio Grande LNG will produce low carbon LNG for the world “, is proud of the American producer, who assures that he will be respected” the highest standards in the LNG industry “.
During an investor promotion in June 2021, NextDecade was even presented as ” a clean energy company accelerating the path to a clean zero future “.
CO2 capture technology is struggling to convince
However, according to an Oil Change International report published in November 2021, the combustion of oil and gas to be produced by 2050 in the Permia Basin – both by NextDecade and other private entities – will be free. ” almost 40 billion tonnes of CO2, ie almost 10% of the world’s carbon budget remaining below 1.5 ° C And the CO2 capture at the NextDecade LNG carrier outlet will not be enough to release this gas.
Above all, technology itself remains a distrust. In 2019, the American production company LNG Venture Global, participated in CCS projects [capture et stockage du carbone, ndlr]expressed his skepticism and told the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that these it is not economically feasible “And that they” would result in significant negative energy and environmental impacts, due to the additional water and energy requirements for the operation of the system, with the relative emission of additional greenhouse gases and other pollutants from the combustion of natural gas “.
From failure to failure, despite the billions on the table
In fact, far from the reassuring speeches of Engie and NextDecade, the road is full of pitfalls. Australia’s huge LNG mining and export complex, Gorgon, was briefly introduced by its pilot (US oil giant Chevron) as ” the largest commercial-scale carbon dioxide storage project in the world “, In particular, made headlines due to technical problems and multiple cost overruns. Thus, while Gorgon was to capture 80% of the CO2 emitted (on a rolling average of five years), Chevron said that even if the LNG had been delivered, the emission capture target had not been met. , however, revealing the exact details.
But according to the American NGO Global Energy Monitor, these would actually be disastrous: Gorgon would have managed to capture only 30% of the targeted CO2. A few days ago, a report from thought tank The American Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has taken the issue even further, describing the project as ” failure “.
“If Chevron, Exxon and Shell can’t make Gorgon carbon capture and storage work, who will? asks the tank of thought.
Especially since in the Rio Grande LNG several elements are worrying. Indeed, the company responsible for the future site’s CO2 capture infrastructure, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, helped develop emission reduction technology a few years ago for Texas’ Petra Nova and Mississippi Kemper power plants – the latter supposedly that it was the first coal-fired plant “ownBut again there, the two big projects ended up exploding in flight, overwhelmed by huge costs and a cry of lack of results. While many experts are now warning of the impasse of one business as usual Justified by technological advances, the burden of proof will therefore be on NextDecade and Engie to show, after these bitter failures, that this time it will be the right one.