Natural gas

Natural gas remains critical for heating and power generation in the near term for all scenarios, but its use changes significantly in our net zero scenarios from the 2030s, for example to produce hydrogen.

 

Key insights

Natural gas is an important part of today’s energy mix. It provides heat and the means to cook in most British homes and businesses. It is also used to generate electricity and crucially, gas-fired power stations can easily be turned up and down in response to renewable generation levels. Gas can meet the significant seasonal differences in demand through a variety of sources as well as storage. However, natural gas cannot be used in a net zero world without capturing its emissions. 

In order to reach net zero, we will need to decide how we replace natural gas in our energy mix in the next decade and start making the necessary changes to our energy system, businesses and homes.

  • The demand for natural gas varies greatly within our net zero scenarios. System Transformation still has 60% of today’s demand levels (almost 50 bcm annual demand), while Leading the Way has just 5 bcm annual demand. This illustrates the difference between a blue hydrogen net scenario and a more electrified, green hydrogen scenario.

  • Natural gas imported to Great Britain will provide 98% of supplies in System Transformation in 2050 as the UK’s Continental Shelf (UKCS) declines. However, there is uncertainty about future LNG supplies as global energy demand shifts to gas over coal, which could impact availability.

  • The gas network is still being used in 2050 in System Transformation and Steady Progression, albeit with modifications in the former to transport hydrogen. Reduced demand and lower levels of hydrogen mean the network is not as extensive in Leading the Way and much reduced in Consumer Transformation.

  • In our most ambitious net zero scenario, Leading the Way, we assume that the unabated combustion of natural gas will stop by 2035.

 

Where are we now?

Great Britain used 82 bcm of natural gas in 2020, equivalent to around 907 TWh from a variety of sources. The diversity is important to security of supply as it reduces reliance on a single source.  Our current gas supply system can cope with the changing nature of flows and sources without affecting supplies to end consumers. 

Natural gas supply from different sources in 2030 and 2050 

 

Natural Gas Supply - Key insights

The UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) supplies natural gas in all our scenarios until 2040. In Steady Progression and System Transformation, large volumes of natural gas for methane reformation come from outside the UK as well as from the UKCS. In both scenarios, supplies are predominantly from LNG, with gas from Norway and interconnectors to the continent supplementing demand.

Demand for natural gas reduces dramatically after 2030 in both Consumer Transformation and Leading the Way, as homes are retrofitted with heat pumps. By 2036, more homes are heated by electricity than natural gas in Consumer Transformation. In System Transformation, natural gas heating in homes reduces more slowly but by 2042 more homes are heated by hydrogen than by natural gas. Whilst the same pipe network may well be used, boilers will need to be able to burn hydrogen instead of natural gas. 

In Leading the Way, no natural gas is used at all in 2050. In Consumer Transformation, small amounts of natural gas are used for methane reformation to produce hydrogen. 

 

Scenario overviews – Natural gas supply

Consumer Transformation

Figure 19a for SV Nat Gas Overviews CT

 

  • Lowest demand for natural gas across the scenarios due to earlier decarbonisation and higher levels of hydrogen from electrolysis

  • UKCS still producing at very low levels until 2050

  • LNG and continental natural gas imports decline by late 2040s to be replaced by hydrogen imports

  • There is low import dependency for natural gas supply. For hydrogen, imports make up 20% of total supply in 2050

System Transformation

Figure 19a for SV Nat Gas Overviews ST

 

  • Lowest demand for natural gas across the scenarios due to earlier decarbonisation and higher levels of hydrogen from electrolysis

  • UKCS still producing at very low levels until 2050

  • LNG and continental natural gas imports decline by late 2040s to be replaced by hydrogen imports

  • There is low import dependency for natural gas supply. For hydrogen, imports make up 20% of total supply in 2050

Leading the Way

Figure 19c for SV Nat Gas Overviews LW

 

  • Lowest demand for natural gas across the scenarios due to earlier decarbonisation and higher levels of hydrogen from electrolysis

  • UKCS still producing at very low levels until 2050

  • LNG and continental natural gas imports decline by late 2040s to be replaced by hydrogen imports

  • There is low import dependency for natural gas supply. For hydrogen, imports make up 20% of total supply in 2050

Steady Progression

Figure 19d for SV Nat Gas Overviews SP

 

  • Lowest demand for natural gas across the scenarios due to earlier decarbonisation and higher levels of hydrogen from electrolysis

  • UKCS still producing at very low levels until 2050

  • Steady Progression

  • LNG and continental natural gas imports decline by late 2040s to be replaced by hydrogen imports

  • There is low import dependency for natural gas supply. For hydrogen, imports make up 20% of total supply in 2050