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Are you ready for the world of methane?
Well, get ready.
William Fisher, director of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, called methane a major part of the energy mix that is evolving right now -- and it will continue to be a dominant force for the first half of this century.
"Methane won't be our only fuel source, but it will be the most important as a percentage of the total energy mix," Fisher said. "The methane economy will last through the first half of this century and it will be pushed by the development of hydrogen fuel cells.
"Methane will be both a source of fossil fuel and hydrogen for fuel cells," he said.
Fisher is one of several speakers who will participate in a forum at the AAPG Annual Meeting on "The Future of Global Energy -- Technical, Environmental, Economic and Policy Issues."
The forum, which will cover primarily the U.S. perspective on the future of global energy, is chaired by Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology in Austin, Texas, and Pinar Yilmaz, with ExxonMobil, Houston.
Fisher will discuss decarbonization -- the concept of moving from solid fuels to liquid fuels to natural gas, and eventually to hydrogen.
Tinker said he asked Fisher to particularly address the impact of the decarbonization trend on the economy and environment.
Fisher will approach the subject from two separate tracks:
"We went from wood, which is very high in carbon, to coal, then transitioned to oil and now we are in the process of transitioning to natural gas," Fisher said. "That is an almost straight line progression that has been under way for over 100 years.
"Today the implications are that we are on the threshold of what some call the methane economy," he said.
And what does this transition to a methane economy mean for natural gas demand?
"Global demand for natural gas over the first half of this century could be 20 to 25 percent times higher than all global gas demand historically," he said. "In the United States the major increase in demand will focus more attention on how much of our needs can be met domestically, and how much will have to be LNG imports."
The current threshold of natural gas prices and the long-term outlook for strong gas prices, according to Fisher, means more attention has been turned to LNG and moving natural gas resources globally.
"The exact price at which LNG becomes economically viable is open for debate," he said, "but today's prices of $4 to $5 per MCF are making LNG projects attractive.
"However, the longer term view of natural gas prices is the real key," he continued. "Before a company goes out and makes a multi-billion dollar investment in a LNG plant there must be some assurance that long-term gas prices can support the project."
Fisher said most experts believe that following natural gas the global economy will be fueled by hydrogen.
"This change will happen gradually and may not be a real force until mid-century, but some projections indicate we will be significantly into hydrogen fuel cell technology for transportation within 20 to 25 years," he said. "In fact, in some areas of the world -- like China, where there are relatively few automobiles today -- they may leapfrog over combustible engines right to hydrogen fuel cell transportation.
"One may argue the timing of these trends in decarbonization," Fisher said, "but unquestionably, in my judgment, these are the directions we will go."
Other panel members include: