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Global Challenges Visiting Expert Seminar Series - Dr Paul Balcombe

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Brunel University London

Eastern Gateway 003

London

UB8 3PH

United Kingdom

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Global methane emissions from natural gas supply chains: how to tackle the super emitters

CO2 emissions from natural gas are lower than other fossil fuels, but methane emissions from the supply chain reduce this climate benefit and are highly variable across different regions and supply chain stages. Additionally, the appearance of super emitters in every stage of the supply chain skews the distribution significantly. Methane is a very potent but short-lived greenhouse gas, where Global Warming Potentials are typically used to compare gases with ‘CO2 equivalences’, but there is growing acknowledgment of their limitations and a desire to use other metrics and time horizons. Research at the Methane and Environment Programme, Sustainable Gas Institute at Imperial College London, examines the effect of the variability of methane emissions and the use of different climate metrics, and time horizons, on the potential contribution of natural gas to governmental decarbonisation pathways. The research develops a technology-rich probabilistic emissions model and conducts life cycle assessments of different supply chains and end-uses. We assess the benefits of using different climate metrics, such as the global temperature change potential (GTP), as well as other timeframes, for different industrial, governmental and academic applications. Results from the probabilistic assessment shows extremely heavily skewed emissions: estimates vary by a factor of 100 across metrics, gas fields and supply chain routes. The role of natural gas in decarbonisation pathways must be managed extremely carefully to avoid unintended consequences of increased supply chain methane emissions. Given the short-lived nature of atmospheric methane, the timing of natural gas production (and emissions) is a key consideration in energy transitions and minimising peak temperatures.



Dr Paul Balcombe
is currently a Research Fellow at the Sustainable Gas Institute, leading the Methane and Environment Programme at Imperial College London. Their research investigates the environmental and economic impacts associated with the natural gas supply chain and determining pathways to reduce these impacts.

Paul moved to the Sustainable Gas Institute from Manchester, where he achieved a first class degree in Chemical Engineering (MEng 2002 – 2006), attained chartered engineer status from his time in industry (2006 – 2010) and then completed his PhD (2010 – 2014). Using environmental life cycle analysis, process simulation and behavioural economic theory, his multi-disciplinary PhD was about how small-scale renewable energy technologies could contribute to meeting UK climate change and energy security targets.

Paul’s research interests involve the environmental, economic and technical assessments of energy industry to answer a number of key questions: how can we decarbonise our energy use whilst maintaining living standards; what role should fossil fuels have in decarbonisation targets; and how can energy policy help us to do this most effectively?

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Brunel University London

Eastern Gateway 003

London

UB8 3PH

United Kingdom

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