Gas: the bridge to a low carbon future?

Materials World magazine
1 Jan 2015

The UK Energy Research Centre released the report A Bridge to a Low-Carbon Future? Modelling the Long-Term Global Potential of Natural Gas in November 2014, detailing the effect that gas could have on the global energy system. Exploring all aspects of the energy sector, including fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, the report proposes how natural gas might help to ease the transition to a low-carbon future.

Two scenarios are examined – one where global warming leads to a 2°C increase in temperature and a second of a 3°C rise, to understand the impact of gas use on these rises, which could be needed to replace coal and complement the increase in low-carbon energy sources.

Here are some of the critical findings: 

Climate change

60% chance of preventing global surface temperature rising by more than 2°C

US CO2 emissions could fall by 50% by 2015

Fossil fuels

estimated rise in coal consumption globally from 2010–2050

From 2020–2040, coal will account for nearly 50% of total electricity generation


20% of total electricity generation will be powered by solar photovoltaics by 2050


30% increase in global energy consumption since 2010

In 2025, carbon capture and storage (CCS) would apply to a maximum of 12% of total electricity generation

630GW of nuclear power expected to be generated globally by 2050

Oil and gas

35% rise in oil consumption by 2050

6.5blnm3 growth in shale gas production between 2015 and 2020

1tlnm3 expected shale gas production from 2040 onwards globally

4,126blncm3 expected shale gas production from 2040 onwards globally

The report concludes that gas is a limited resource with an uncertain future – it will be a bridge to a low-carbon energy mix, but not a long one. To limit global warming to a 2°C temperature increase, renewables will need to take over as a primary energy resource, and carbon capture and storage would need to develop on a mass scale. To view the full report, visit