Fuel costs and CO2 intensities?

This data-file compares fuel costs and CO2 intensities for 20 different fuels. Clean fuels are not a black-and-white category, but fall along a spectrum. CO2 intensity is -35% associated with costs. Switching coal to gas actually achieves more decarbonization than switching gas to green hydrogen.

Included in the file are different oil products, gas markers, coal, wood, nuclear, biofuels, methanol, hydrogen, CO2-EOR products and the US electricity grid for comparison.

Good rules of thumb are that $60/ton coal equates to thermal energy at 1c/kWh-th, while emitting over 600 kg/boe of CO2 intensity; while $3/mcf gas also equates to thermal energy at 1c/kWh, while CO2 intensity is around 50% lower at 350kg/boe.

The straight line average fuel in the global energy system costs $100/boe and has a CO2 intensity of 350kg/boe.

There is a -35% correlation between different fuel costs and CO2 intensities, as many of the lower carbon fuels in the mix are more expensive than these low cost alternatives. Simply in terms of thermodynamics, fuels with more energy transformations will embed higher costs and possibly also higher CO2 intensities, unless they are combined with CCS.

Three stand-out opportunities in the energy transition, in our view, are switching coal to gas and LNG, later switching gas to blue hydrogen, and combining low-carbon gas with nature-based CO2 removals. All of these options yield large-scale decarbonization at passable incremental costs.

Beware oversimplified levelized cost analysis. Our research into this topic is linked here and here. Our cross plot of different countries’ electricity prices and CO2 intensities is linked here.

This data-file simply contains the numbers behind the cross-plot shown above, for anyone looking to interrogate the data or re-format the chart. The workings behind each number are linked in other data-files.

For an overview of energy units, how they work, and what they mean, we recommend our primer into global energy units: life, the universe and everything.

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