The role of natural gas resources on the path to a low carbon economy : Workshop discussion (7 Aug 2019, Dunedin)

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Kellett RL, Terezow MG, Hollis CJ, Funnell RH, Ellison R. 2020. The role of natural gas resources on the path to a low carbon economy : Workshop discussion (7 Aug 2019, Dunedin). Lower Hutt (NZ) GNS Science. 30 p. (GNS Science report 2019/72). doi:10.21420/YAHB-M903.


Transitioning to a net-zero-emission future will require a transformation of New Zealand’s economy and society. The costs of meeting the Government’s emissions reduction targets could be large, and new technologies will be required. In coming decades, petroleum products will continue to play an important role in society, both for transportation and petrochemicals (and potentially some industrial heat applications). The dilemma we face is that our current petroleum and natural gas resources will only last for around another decade at current rates of extraction, new exploration opportunities are limited and global competition for the labour and capital to develop new resources is fierce. Without a continued supply of natural gas and other petroleum products, New Zealand may not be able to engineer and afford the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. A workshop was held in Dunedin on the 7th August 2019 to explore the role that a hypothetical, large gas discovery offshore of Te Waipounamu / South Island would have on the transition to a low-emissions economy. The goal was to provide a clearer understanding around where the experts agree, and where there is a need for more research and debate. The small-group session was based around decision trees and timelines. It identified a series of conditions whereby future natural gas development in New Zealand would be more likely to receive social licence and be publicly acceptable. These include:

  • feasible and cost-effective carbon dioxide capture and storage;
  • production of New Zealand natural gas reserves that would reduce overall global emissions by offsetting coal (that produces more CO2 per unit of useful energy), both internationally and locally;
  • sufficient demand for natural gas, both internationally and locally;
  • an economically feasible domestic distribution network (presently only on the North Island)
  • adaptability of utilising natural gas infrastructure for hydrogen in the future;
  • opportunities for the government to influence development through contracts and licenses;
  • effective management of local environmental risks;
  • social license to produce and consume, or to export, natural gas after 2030; and
  • decision-making processes consistent with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. (auth)