Denser networks for natural gas will contribute to greater flexibility and improved economics, according to a new white paper released by GE. The paper, called the Age of Gas, argues that the expanding network of natural gas infrastructure expected from the gas boom, will enhance deliverability, leading to greater supply resiliency and less price volatility. The GE paper lays out the incredible synergies that could come about from increasing linkages between ship, pipeline, rail, and trucking networks for natural gas, liquefied natural gas (LNG), compressed natural gas (CNG) and small scale generation and fueling systems.
Notes authors Peter C. Evans and Michael F. Farina, “Large scale multi-billion dollar “mega” pipeline and LNG projects will “anchor” future gas network growth…complementing these large-scale systems will be a new generation of smaller modular “satellite” systems. Gas networks will evolve around the world based on the development of anchor systems and satellite opportunities.” As these systems integrate, gas delivery will become “more flexible and more resilient” driving “significant institutional and market changes,” and also opening the way for “gas to capture a larger share of energy demand,” the authors argue.
Natural gas is well positioned to improve overall system resiliency, GE notes, given gas’ important role as a back-up for renewables and as a stable service during severe weather events given that gas networks are often underground and less susceptible to interruption than roadways and power grids. “Gas technologies are supporting new concepts for grids-within-a-grid and multi-source micro grids to increase resilience and reaction time in the face of disruptions” Evans and Farina say. They explain further: “In addition, distributed power systems built around gas networks can provide fast power recovery for public utilities such as hospitals, waterworks, and government agencies, which is very important in disaster relief.”
Importantly, by embracing the build-out of natural gas and distributed energy networks in the United States, including export capacity, the U.S. can lead the way globally to “democratize” energy, much the way its Silicon Valley giants have democratized information. Now, on the 40th anniversary of the 1973 embargo, the United States has a historic opportunity to lead an energy counterrevolution.
As I write today with Edward Morse of Citi at Foreign Policy.com, “American innovation and exports of energy supply and technology will open global energy markets to competitive investments and consumer choice. But Washington needs to embrace this choice by resisting the call to continue to ban energy exports to protect vested business interests or for resource nationalistic reasons.”
The U.S. government needs to support the reform of the electricity utilities to hasten the transition that GE is describing in its white paper: More-efficient technologies, locally produced and distributed generation, time-of-day pricing and peak-demand shaving and integrated networks for renewable energy and natural gas. By leading the charge to these new energy technologies, the United States can fashion a global energy world more to its liking, where distant oil producers can no longer hold American drivers hostage or turn off the heat and lights to millions of European consumers to further geopolitical ends.
Just as it was difficult to predict the impact of Apple computers and smart phones on future global social and political trends, it may now seem hard to imagine how America’s unconventional resources and smart-grid innovation will democratize energy markets. But Apple did reset the way we think about computing and communications and brought disruptive change to the world. The disruptive technologies currently unfolding in the energy sector are also pointing to free markets versus government control and consumer choice winning over supplier monopolies, with US companies and consumers the winners in the future of energy game.