Notes for supply chain issues for IRPs planning use of natural Gas.
Utilities relying on a natural gas logistics supply chain are struggling to achieve sustainability goals after externalities are acknowledged. For example, PGE intends “ … to integrate sustainability in every aspect of business …”. This is difficult to accomplish because to do so is reliant on information about upstream commodity sources that release methane to the environment as part of normal operations.
A recent analysis of UN IPCC data strongly suggests that a root cause of climate damage is methane (CH4) rather than just CO2. This conclusion is reached after a number of recent disclosures.
Recent satellite and flyover top down data have disclosed CH4 super-emitters that show previous US EPA estimates to be far short of the actual quantity of methane pollutants released by the oil and gas industry.
Independent third party reports on the amount of CH4 released range above 5% of delivered product.
As atmospheric science advances, the standard used to compute the warming potential of CH4 in the upper atmosphere has been increased. The latest standard from 2013 states that CH4 is more effective than CO2 at trapping solar heat by a factor of 84 for the 20 year period following release. Shorthand for this factor is Global Warming Potential 20 (GWP20) = 84.
Another standard for CH4, namely GWP100 = 21, tells us the impact of CH4 100 years after release. This is not helpful for near term utility planning, since we don’t have a century to reach climate goals. Many science-based reports unfortunately reference GWP100.
Moreover the social cost of carbon (SCC) is becoming apparent. This highlights the economic penalty being born by the economy and communities due to carbon releases. A typical value is $40/ton of CO2, and is the motivation behind carbon tax and carbon cap initiatives that attempt to rebalance the environment and economy. The SCC for CH4 includes the GWP20 multiplier.
As rate-payers, tax-payers and investors put this story together, any expansion in demand for non-renewable natural gas supplies begins to appear counterproductive for economic and environmental sustainability. Its unfortunate that highly efficient state-of-the-art gas turbine technology, used in compressor and electricity generation, can’t make up for the supply chain problems.
This situation is aggravated by the industry practice of not disclosing the total measured CH4 releases and leaks, which they allow upstream of utility services, at their point of sale. Lack of measured data, for the most destructive mass commodity known to damage climate, should be challenged by utilities that serve the public. Such reports are needed for accurate carbon accounting for the Oregon Global Warming Commission to deliver to the Legislators, consistent with the intent of SB 1547B in limiting the life-cycle costs of carbon-based energy delivered to Oregon.
For these reasons the Carty expansion project planned by PGE appears to be environmentally and economically unsustainable unless supplied from renewable, non-fossil, commodity sources with zero methane emissions. Even dropping Carty Units 2 and 3 leaves Oregon needing PGE to obtain supply chain CH4 release data (not estimates).