End of gas

In July 2014 I started a page listing reasons why everybody should accept that the end of coal as a viable industry was near. As of the time of my beginning work on this page I had a list of 41 good reasons to believe that the coal industry was in a terminal decline.

Natural (fossil) gas as a fuel will last longer than coal because it allows more flexibility, especially in the generation of electricity. But there are increasingly numerous and impelling reasons to believe that the end of the natural gas industry is also approaching quickly.

The mining industry discovered that there are huge reserves of coal-seam gas and oil-shale that can be profitably exploited. Unfortunately these resources come with several big disadvantages:

  • The extraction of coal-seam gas often involves drilling many wells through aquifers with the potential for the contamination or loss of water from those resources;
  • Coal-seam gas is mostly methane, a very strong greenhouse gas. The extraction process comes with some, largely unknown, amount of loss of this methane to the atmosphere;
These side effects are all harmful to our environment.

Fossil fuels in general, and gas in particular, will prove to be very poor investments, even from purely financial considerations.

This page was started 2020/11/15, last edited 2023/11/14
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

This page gives short summaries of, and links to, many articles on the Internet relating to the terminal decline of the gas industry.

It may be the only page on the subject in the internet that is continually updated.


A part of Snowtown Wind Farm in South Australia
Wind turbines
Wind and solar power were both cheaper than gas-fired power at the time of writing, and were getting cheaper all the time. They, together with power storage methods, will displace fossil gas.

Reasons to believe that fossil gas is a bad investment

At least from the last quarter of 2020 it was becoming increasingly obvious that the gas industry was facing serious decline.

In most cases, what is bad news for coal as an investment will also be bad news for gas as an investment so many of the reasons for coal being a bad investment will also be reasons why gas is a bad investment.



I am Australian and cannot help writing from an Australian perspective. Australia is one of the biggest exporters of fossil fuels in the world and most of our electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, so both of the political parties having followings large enough to have a chance of forming government are devoted to fossil fuels.
Earlier this year (2020) The Australian government was ranked last out of 57 nations on climate policy.

Even so, renewable energy is growing as quickly in Australia as anywhere in the world, and fossil fuels are consequently being pushed aside.

Some of the reasons for and evidence of this decline included the points listed below. The links within each section give more information and evidence supporting each point:

  1. Climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise are causing ever more damage to our shared planet. The air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels kills millions of people world wide each year. As awareness of these problems increases, as it must, humanity will move away from fossil fuels.

  2. The share of new energy generation capacity made up by renewables is increasing while the share made up by coal and gas is decreasing;

  3. Renewably generated electricity had become much cheaper the gas-fired generation; as shown below.

    The Hornsdale Tesla big battery, AKA Hornsdale Power Reserve
    Big battery
    The Hornsdale Power Reserve battery was built in the Hornsdale Wind Farm which is in South Australia's Mid North, a region that is leading Australia in renewable energy. It has very successfully provided power grid stabilisation services and can be tapped for power supply far more quickly than can a gas-fired power station.
  4. Batteries are about to take over from gas in providing for electrical peak demand.

  5. Progressive organisations were investing in renewables; Link.

  6. World's biggest miner recognised urgency of action on climate change; Link.

  7. Intercontinental trade in renewable energy has been proposed; Link.

  8. Religious groups are calling for climate change action; Link.

    Peterborough Solar Farm, South Australia
    Peterborough Solar Farm
    One of many smaller utility scale solar power stations recently built in Australia.
    Photo taken with my drone, 2018/05/12
  9. Increasing numbers of cities, states and countries are introducing or strengthening carbon pollution reduction measures; Link.

  10. The European Union was acting on carbon emissions; Link.

  11. Big corporations were changing to renewables; Link.

  12. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was showing that renewable energy was economically competitive with fossil fuels by committing to 100% renewable energy at the same time as keeping the lowest electricity prices in Australia; Link.

  13. An alliance of Australian peak bodies was calling for climate change action; Link.

  14. Even in Australia, where the strongly pro-fossil fuel Morrison Government has touted for a 'gas led recovery' from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Grattan Institute forecasts a decline in the use of fossil gas.

    Baroota Reservoir; proposed for use for pumped hydro energy storage
    Baroota Reservoir
    The upper reservoir will be near the top of the ridge in the background, 200 m above the water level of the dam; a drilling rig may be seen on the ridge in high-definition version of this photo.
    Photo taken using my drone, 2018/08/21.
  15. Energy storage in batteries, pumped hydro, compressed air, hydrogen, ammonia and other technologies is advancing at a great rate. It will make expensive gas-fired peaking power generators redundant.

  16. Twiggy Forest's Fortescue Metals Group, a highly successful iron ore miner, has proposed branching out into wind and solar renewable energy around the world with an initial target of 235 GW. To put this into perspective the average power consumption in Australia's National Electricity Market is about 23 GW. See articles in Australian Financial Review and Renew Economy.

  17. The proposed Asian Renewable Hub in Western Australia's Pilbara, is intended to generate 26 GW of renewable energy. Up to 3 GW will be used in the Pilbara region (and will largely displace diesel), but the bulk of the energy is to be used for production of green hydrogen products for Australian and esport products. This hydrogen will displace fossil gas.

  18. The 3 GW Sun Cable project is backed by billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest. If it goes ahead it will involve 3,700 km of submarine power cable, 12,000 ha of solar panels and supply up to 1/5 of Singapore's electricity supply. Currently most of Singapore's electricity is generated by burning fossil gas, soon this will start to be replaced with renewably generated hydrogen.

I intend to add to this list over time.

Batteries taking over from gas

Big batteries taking over from gas peaking power generators

At the end of 2017 the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, at 100 MW power and 129 MWh of energy storage was the biggest in the world. By late 2020 a battery of 250 MW and 1,000 MWh (1 GWh) had been proposed by AGL, also in South Australia.

The 250 MW capacity of this battery is more than all but two gas-fired power stations in South Australia.

It happens that AGL is the company that produces the most greenhouse emissions of any Australian company. The above reference about the proposed AGL battery also mentions a number of other big battery proposals in Australia; there is no reason to doubt that the rest of the world will move in the same direction.

This section added 2020/11/24

AGL announces another big battery

On 2020/11/23 Angela Macdonald-Smith wrote an article for the Australian Financial Review titled "Vic to host AGL's next big battery". Quoting from the AFL article:
"AGL Energy has flagged its second large battery project within 10 days, advising of plans to install a system of up to 200 megawatts at the site of its Loy Yang coal power station in Victoria to support the growth of weather-dependent renewables.

The storage facility, which is in the early stages of development, is intended to allow eventually for up to four hours of storage, or 800 megawatt-hours. The initial project, which has yet to reach financial close, will have a smaller capacity, AGL said, without being more specific."
Again, this is a battery with a large enough power and energy capacity to displace gas-fired peaking generators.

Integration of electric vehicle (EV) batteries and the power grid

Electric vehicles have batteries that are typically much bigger than home batteries. Sales of EVs are increasing exponentially. It make economic sense for anyone having an EV to connect it with the power grid and trade electricity. As more an more people do this there will be decreasing place for gas-fired peaking generators.

Energy Magazine ran a story 2020/11/19 about AGL running a $8.25 million trial involving 300 private EV owners. The trial will look into various ways of integrating the EV batteries into the power grid.

I have written on this subject at greater length elsewhere on these pages.

The future is with renewables, gas is in its death throws

Bungala solar farm near Port Augusta, South Australia
One of the biggest solar farms in Australia when built, Bungala is rated at 275 MW.
Click on image to view the photo in high definition, 'back' to return

Solar and wind power on the utility scale are much cheaper than gas-fired power, as shown below.

Bungala solar farm, pictured above, covers 800 ha. A quick look at the high definition photo will give a hint of how much more area is available for far bigger solar power developments. The area of South Australia is 938,000 km2; or 93,800,000 ha. Much of the state is just as well suited to solar farming as the Bungala area; I have calculated on another page that an area of solar panels covering only 1% of the more desolate part of South Australia would be sufficient to generate 600 TWh/year, more than twice the total annual electricity consumption of Australia.

The future possibilities for renewable energy are mind-boggling.

This section added

New energy generation capacity made up by renewables is increasing while the share made up by coal and gas is decreasing

Electricity generation transition 2001-2020
Energy transition
Image credit Renew Economy (original IRENA?)
The graph at the right is effectively a picture of the end of fossil fuels in the power generation industry.

Back in 2001-2002 three or four times as much non-renewable power station capacity was being built as renewables. By 2011-2012 the split had become around 50/50. But by 2020 over 80% of new power generation capacity was renewable. Non-Renewables, especially coal but gas too, are obviously facing their end-years.

The original report was by IRENA (International Renewable ENergy Agency) and a summary by Ketan Joshi can be read in Renew Economy.

South Australia shows how renewables are far cheaper than gas

To find out the average values of power generated in South Australia over the last year I looked up Open NEM. (Open NEM shows conveniently graphed records of the power that is generated on the Australian National Electricity Market.)

In the little over a year from 2019/11/11 to 2020/11/22 the average wholesale value of power in SA by technology was:

Generation technology
Average value
Solar (Rooftop)
Solar (Utility)
Gas (Reciprocating)
Gas (Open cycle gas turbine)
Gas (Closed cycle gas turbine)
Gas (Steam)

Most of South Australia's gas fired power is generated by CCGT, but quite a bit is also produced by gas fired steam generation. CCGT is not well suited for following the variations in demand and supply.

A random week in South Australia

When I looked up the most recent week's generation in SA on Open NEM I found the data graphed below: South Australia's power was dominated by renewables, and considering the prices listed above, is it any wonder?

Record of a week's power generation in South Australia
Power graph
I downloaded this graph from Open NEM on 2020/11/18 in the process of writing this page. It is not very unusual.

The above graph record's a week's electricity generation in South Australia, note that more than 79% of the state's demand was generated by renewable (solar 26%, wind 53%) and that an amount equal to 14% of the state's demand was exported to Victoria.

Just 17 years earlier South Australia had negligible renewable energy. The state's last coal fired power station shut down on 2016/05/09; coal-fired power has gone from SA, gas-fired power is on the way out. South Australia may well be leading Australia and the world, but Australia and the world are moving in the same direction.

This section added

The fossil fuel companies are unethical

The fossil fuel companies are responsible for a very large proportion of the greenhouse emissions that are the main cause of climate change and related problems. They are causing great harm to our shared planet. It is therefore not at all surprising that they have low ethical standards. They have been trying to deny the fact of anthropogenic climate change for decades.


As dishonest and more despicable than the tobacco industry

The tobacco industry is selling a product that damages its users health. Those who finance the tobacco industry are profiting at the expense of people's health.

Similarly, the fossil fuel industries are selling a produce that should be left in the ground. The emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are seriously damaging, not just people's health, but our whole planet. Those who finance the fossil fuel industry are profiting from harming the Earth's environment and most life on Earth.

Of the two the fossil fuel industries are the more despicable.

In what follows I will outline just one recent misleading act by one of the great fossil fuel companies.

Woodside, one of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world, had a two page advertisement in the latest issue of our local paper, I suspect it was in many local papers and probably the state paper, the West Australian too. It tried to make its project, the development of the Scarborough gas field, sound harmless by stating that “The Scarborough gas contains less than 0.1% carbon dioxide”. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important of the human-produced greenhouse gasses.

Woodside may be correct in its claim that the Scarborough gas field only contains 0.1% CO2, but that claim is very misleading. The important thing is not the CO2 in the gas field, it is the CO2 that will be created when the gas is burned.

When every kilogram of methane from the gas field is burned two and three quarter kilograms of CO2 is created and released into the atmosphere. Extracting and burning the gas from Scarborough will result in about 1.4 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions over the project’s lifetime, more than three times Australia's total annual emissions. (See Gas Outlook for more information.)

There is also bound to be some leakage of methane from the gas field. Methane is itself a very strong greenhouse gas.

Of course Woodside's double-page spread in the newspaper said nothing about the colossal impact that extracting and burning the gas from the Scarborough field would have on our planet's climate.

The fossil fuel industries, like the tobacco industry, have no scruples when it comes to unethically trying to make themselves look good:

  • Exxon Mobil knew about climate change but lied about it for years;
  • I have written a little relating to Woodside's CEO, Meg O'Neil, using the company's wealth to try to gag protesters on another page on this site;
  • Another prominent person in the fossil fuel industry, the coal mine owner, Gina Rinehart, has used her wealth to peddle climate denial;
  • Another billionaire coal mine owner and exporter, Clive Palmer bragged about using his money to keep Labor out of government and keep PM Morrison in government. The Morrison government was more supportive of the fossil fuel industry than Labor under Bill Shorten would have been.

A technical point: burning one kilogram of methane (CH4) produces 2.75kg of CO2. In the reaction the single carbon atom in methane combines with two oxygen atoms from the atmosphere. Hydrogen has an atomic weight of 1, carbon 12, oxygen 16, so methane has a molecular weight of 16 and carbon dioxide 44; 44/16=2.75.

Related pages

Related pages on external sites...

Peaking, a Theory of Rapid Transition; How Patterns of Peak, Plateau, and Decline Point to Fossil Fuels’ Accelerating End. By Kingsmill Bond and Sam Butler-Sloss

Many other external pages relating to the end of fossil fuels generally are on another page on this site.

Related pages on this site...

A list of pages relating to environment in the international context.

A list of pages relating to energy in the international context.

A list of pages relating to environment in The Australian context.

A list of pages relating to energy in the Australian context.

Individual pages

The end of coal

The future of energy

Australia's energy future