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Climate benefits of natural gas as a bridge fuel and potential delay of near-zero energy systems


  • Zhang, Xiaochun
  • Myhrvold, Nathan P.
  • Hausfather, Zeke
  • Caldeira, Ken


Natural gas has been suggested as a “bridge fuel” in the transition from coal to a near-zero emission energy system. However, the expansion of natural gas risks a delay in the introduction of near-zero emission energy systems, possibly offsetting the potential climate benefits of a gas-for-coal substitution. We use a schematic climate model to estimate CO2 and CH4 emissions from integrated energy systems and the resulting changes in global warming over various timeframes. Then we evaluate conditions under which delayed deployment of near-zero emission systems would result in loss of all net climate benefit (if any) from using natural gas as a bridge. Considering only physical climate system effects, we find that there is potential for delays in deployment of near-zero-emission technologies to offset all climate benefits from replacing coal energy systems with natural gas energy systems, especially if natural gas leakage is high, the natural gas energy system is inefficient, and the climate change metric emphasizes decadal time scale changes.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhang, Xiaochun & Myhrvold, Nathan P. & Hausfather, Zeke & Caldeira, Ken, 2016. "Climate benefits of natural gas as a bridge fuel and potential delay of near-zero energy systems," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 167(C), pages 317-322.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:appene:v:167:y:2016:i:c:p:317-322
    DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2015.10.016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nicolas Sanchez & David Mays, 2015. "Effect of methane leakage on the greenhouse gas footprint of electricity generation," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 133(2), pages 169-178, November.
    2. Gorbacheva, Natalya V. & Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2015. "Pain without gain? Reviewing the risks and rewards of investing in Russian coal-fired electricity," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 970-986.
    3. Tokimatsu, Koji & Konishi, Satoshi & Ishihara, Keiichi & Tezuka, Tetsuo & Yasuoka, Rieko & Nishio, Masahiro, 2016. "Role of innovative technologies under the global zero emissions scenarios," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 1483-1493.
    4. Brouwer, Anne Sjoerd & van den Broek, Machteld & Seebregts, Ad & Faaij, André, 2015. "Operational flexibility and economics of power plants in future low-carbon power systems," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 107-128.
    5. Qadrdan, Meysam & Chaudry, Modassar & Jenkins, Nick & Baruah, Pranab & Eyre, Nick, 2015. "Impact of transition to a low carbon power system on the GB gas network," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 1-12.
    6. Michael Levi, 2013. "Climate consequences of natural gas as a bridge fuel," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 118(3), pages 609-623, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:appene:v:218:y:2018:i:c:p:114-130 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Saghafifar, Mohammad & Gadalla, Mohamed, 2017. "Thermo-economic evaluation of water-injected air bottoming cycles hybridization using heliostat field collector: Comparative analyses," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 1230-1246.
    3. repec:eee:energy:v:146:y:2018:i:c:p:156-168 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:enepol:v:129:y:2019:i:c:p:268-278 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Pfeiffer, Alexander & Millar, Richard & Hepburn, Cameron & Beinhocker, Eric, 2016. "The ‘2°C capital stock’ for electricity generation: Committed cumulative carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector and the transition to a green economy," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 1395-1408.
    6. repec:eee:appene:v:206:y:2017:i:c:p:739-750 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:eee:appene:v:236:y:2019:i:c:p:1183-1217 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:eee:ejores:v:273:y:2019:i:3:p:1097-1108 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:eee:enepol:v:120:y:2018:i:c:p:259-267 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:gam:jeners:v:12:y:2019:i:3:p:351-:d:200186 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Vedachalam, N. & Ramesh, S. & Srinivasalu, S. & Rajendran, G. & Ramadass, G.A. & Atmanand, M.A., 2016. "Assessment of methane gas production from Indian gas hydrate petroleum systems," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 649-660.
    12. repec:eee:energy:v:173:y:2019:i:c:p:598-609 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Liu, Liuchen & Zhu, Tong & Pan, Yu & Wang, Hai, 2017. "Multiple energy complementation based on distributed energy systems – Case study of Chongming county, China," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 192(C), pages 329-336.
    14. repec:eee:energy:v:152:y:2018:i:c:p:594-600 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Chen, S.J. & Fu, Y. & Huang, Y.X. & Tao, Z.C. & Zhu, M., 2016. "Experimental investigation of CO2 separation by adsorption methods in natural gas purification," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 329-337.
    16. repec:eee:appene:v:241:y:2019:i:c:p:548-566 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. repec:eee:appene:v:205:y:2017:i:c:p:1435-1446 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. repec:eee:enepol:v:110:y:2017:i:c:p:518-524 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. repec:eee:enepol:v:120:y:2018:i:c:p:144-157 is not listed on IDEAS


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