$223 billion of this to be
spent on new gas production to supply Europe
Brussels, January 29 - The fossil fuel industry is
forecast to spend more than one trillion dollars globally over the next decade
on producing gas for European markets, according to Global Witness analysis of
Rystad Energy data.
Despite climate and energy experts’ warnings that any new fossil fuel production will push the world beyond 1.5°C heating, $223 billion of this trillion dollar sum is set to go on developing and operating new gas extraction sites to supply Europe.
The oil giants Shell, TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil, Equinor and Eni are among the forecast top spenders. Together, these five companies are on course to sink a total of $144 billion into gas supply for the continent over this period.
Annual expenditure by the top 20 companies producing for Europe is set to increase by three-quarters, from $60 billion in 2024, to $105 billion in 2033.
The analysis includes both fossil gas and gas condensate, a by-product of gas extraction used to manufacture kerosene, diesel and other fossil fuels. Burning the fossil gas alone from forecast production for Europe – 3,486 billion cubic metres – would emit 6.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2033 – equivalent to 23 years’ worth of France’s carbon emissions.
The 6.6 billion emissions figure is for carbon dioxide only, and would be significantly higher if it included methane emissions.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the
EU will account for 66% of the overall gas volumes consumed in the wider
European region in 2024, with its share staying virtually the same in 2030 at 65%.
In February, the European Commission is due to unveil its proposals for a target to cut the EU’s emissions by 2040.
Dominic Eagleton, senior fossil fuels campaigner at Global Witness, said “The numbers are stark – Europe is hurtling down a dangerous path by doubling down on fossil gas, and needs to pull out all the stops to end the age of fossil fuels. The European Commission must seize its chance to quicken Europe’s exit from gas and set 2035 as a target date to phase out this costly, crisis-ridden and climate-boiling fossil fuel.”
Industry lobbyists claim that fossil gas is cleaner than
oil or coal, and therefore should be promoted as a ‘bridge fuel’ during the
transition to renewables – even though gas is often worse for the climate than oil or coal when its methane emissions are accounted for.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure – let alone adding more emissions from new projects – are more than enough to push the world beyond 1.5°C heating.
The IEA, meanwhile, includes no new fossil fuel investments in its energy scenario modelling for capping the global temperature rise at 1.5°C.
Demand for fossil gas will fall dramatically if governments step up the actions needed to avoid catastrophic global heating. Energy scenario modelling by Climate Action Network Europe shows that accelerating the rollout of renewables and energy efficiency would bring gas demand down to negligible levels in the EU by 2035, in line with climate science.  Declining demand for gas could make new fields obsolete, leaving fossil fuel companies unable to recoup their investment costs.