Natural gas is attractive since, among fossil fuels, it liberates the lowest amount of carbon dioxide per unit of heat produced. Several factors are contributing towards its greater use in industry, in commerce and in the home for space heating:
• discoveries of massive amounts of gas have been made in many parts of the world, both on land and off-shore;
• gas pipelines have been laid to bring supplies to centres of population;
• as a medium for heating, it is clean, convenient, and cheaper than liquid fuels;
• the user does not require a storage tank.
Wherever natural gas is available, it will be preferred to liquid fuels for heating. Over the next 20 years, we expect to see this trend accelerate as natural gas is brought to more people around the world. More long-distance pipelines will probably be laid, for instance from Russia and some of the former Soviet republics to Western Europe. A pipeline already exists under the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa to Europe, and in due course this might link up with one from the West African oil and gas fields. Where distances are too great, for instance to supply gas to Japan and Korea, there will be an expansion in the shipment of liquefied natural gas, which is fast becoming a major item of commerce.
We also anticipate a continuation in the move towards using more natural gas to generate electricity, both centrally in large power stations and locally in combined heat and power (CHP) schemes. Centrally, the driving factors are the high efficiency of combined-cycle gas turbines for electricity generation and the tightening restrictions on the liberation of sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power stations.
Finally, on a much more modest scale, we envisage a growth in the market for LPG, which is a clean fuel used traditionally for portable applications in leisure activities and more recently as a vehicle fuel. It appears likely that LPG will be employed more extensively as an automotive fuel, particularly in cities. In Europe, increasing numbers of service stations are installing LPG pumps and this wider availability of the fuel will encourage its greater use.