London Local Energy: Why?

Why? Where? How? When? Who?

London uses about 9 Billion Cubic Metres of gas a year, 11.8% of a 2016 National total of 76 BCM

  • Less than 5% is used for power generation in London
  • Most use in London is in buildings and homes
  • There is little heavy industry in London, but gas is used in food processing and preparation – brewing, baking, pasteurisation.
  • Gas is used for commercial property, for both older heating and modern HVAC ( Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems
  • There are 3.3 million separate gas meters in London.
  • Based on national figures of 1.6 million central heating systems installed or replaced annually, a new or replacement gas boiler is installed every 40 seconds – in London alone.  LLE is not “locking in” carbon fuels.  Central heating users are.
  • Three million meters are for domestic use for heating and hot water. Nationally, 61% of those meters also use gas for cooking.

The dominant issue for London is how to replace gas used in heat. The main alternative to central heating is from heat pumps, but that technology is not only expensive but requires digging up an area the size of a large garden, gardens that most Londoners don’t have. Nationally, 99% of homes that have a natural gas supply use it for heat.

Ofgem figures from 2017 demonstrate that  for Q1 2017  only 663 customers disconnected from the gas network to use renewable heat.

The supply chain of eggs, milk, bread and any other commodity is the main influence on carbon footprint. The same applies to natural gas.

There are three evidence based studies on the CO2 footprint of various sources of UK gas supply. David McKay wrote an analysis on shale, and carbon for DECC in 2013. The Sustainable Gas Institute at Imperial College London did another in 2015 which included a study of methane emissions.  A 2015 EU study informs best of all by measuring the well to wheel emissions of various  sources of natural gas in natural gas vehicles, again including a range of methane leaks. That study clearly states:

In general, the CI(Carbon Intensity) is high in gas streams related to long pipelines and/or long distances of transport in the form of LNG, and/or high methane fugitive emissions

While there are some proposals around geo-thermal, sewer heat, water from the Thames, hydrogen etc, there are currently no scalable or cost effective solutions. Notably all of the above alternatives are, as LLE also proposes, for low carbon heat, not zero carbon heat.

The London Mayor’s Energy Plan  predicts  a need of 50 percent of today’s gas  by 2050.  It may surprise some to hear that we, of all people, think the target isn’t ambitious enough – we think 40% is more realistic.

LLE proposals centre on the assumption that in an imperfect world it makes sense to have a short term (until 2040) use of lower carbon natural gas – locally produced natural gas. We assume that a solution for zero carbon electricity has also been found by then.

In 2016 the UK used 76.7 BCM. Most was from the UK and Norwegian North Sea, but prices are set between the 13.8 % from LNG, and 7% imported from Belgium or Holland. Much of the EU imports reflect an EU wide share of 34 % Russian gas. Russian gas travels up to 6000 KM from Western Siberia.  It’s clear that the carbon footprint of the supply chain from Western London will be much less.

According to the 2015 EU study, the average CI (Carbon Intensity) of UK natural gas was 11.8 grCO2eq/MJ.

Extrapolating from the same study, we see a CI of Netherland onshore gas of 6.1,  one of 14 for Russian gas and 12 for Qatar LNG. Qatar is currently the dominant LNG supplier to the UK but some may come from the US this year.  That LNG, would certainly be derived from shale gas, the source of 70% of US gas consumption.

Moving gas involves compressing it in pipelines via modified jet engines an average of 90KM apart.  Apart from Qatar where  gas fields are nearby, LNG thus has a pipeline content upstream of the export terminal.  It then has significant energy wasted in heating (to remove impurities), processing and freezing before it is loaded on an LNG carrier for a voyage that may be several thousand miles and take over a month. LNG is then reheated at the receiving terminal resulting in further energy loss.

Even the UK North Sea has a higher  carbon intensity.  We must consider the construction of drilling platforms and the carbon involved in transporting labour, supplies and food to them. There are for example over two million helicopter passenger movements each year in the UK North Sea. There are also several hundred supply vessels who most often would use bunker fuel oil, the most polluting grade of oil.

A new discovery in the North Sea would spend $100 million to drill a well, from a carbon intense off shore platform where up to 200 workers and all their food and supplies would be flown in. That’s at least 5000 helicopter movements per year.

London Local Energy employees will go to work – by car, by bus, by tube, by rail, by bike – and by foot –  just like everyone else.

London Local Energy is investigating an exciting theory. What if there are natural gas resources under London?  More in how.

One Reply to “London Local Energy: Why?”

  1. Sounds like an excellent idea. Local gas supplied to local communities. As you explain, our own gas is far better than importing the country’s requirements. Imagine local London gas supplying Londoners! All discretely taken from small foot prints in industrial areas. Let’s hope the ‘London set’ who are keen to deny the north the economic opportunities which would come with a home grown shale gas industry enjoy the benefits of your gas, because it is plain to see they oppose our gas without truly understanding the process involved in exploration and extraction techniques. Of course it is a political cross to bear for them.

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