Abundant gas

Energy Program (ENE) researchers, IIASA partners, and international collaborators contributed to new research on unconventional natural gas, the results of which were published in Nature.

© Lonnyinco | Dreamstime

© Lonnyinco | Dreamstime

The outcomes of a new cross-cutting multi-model study, including IIASA’s MESSAGE model, on unconventional gas from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—also known as fracking—was published in Nature [1].

Recent advances in gas production technology have led to the availability of bountiful, low-cost natural gas, particularly in the United States. As natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal, many hoped the recent natural gas boom could help slow climate change—and according to government analyses, natural gas did contribute partially to a decline in US carbon dioxide emissions between 2007 and 2012.

The IIASA collaborative study, however, concluded that in the long run global abundance of inexpensive natural gas would compete with all energy sources: not just higher-emitting coal but also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar.

The modeling showed that without new climate policies, expanding the current bounty of inexpensive natural gas alone would not slow the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide over the long term.

In addition, inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use and emissions. Without additional policies, methane leakage from unconventional gas production could also contribute further to climate change.

The study conducted by Energy (ENE), Mitigation of Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases (MAG), and Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) programs in collaboration with international partners relied on new estimates of the world natural gas resources by Hans Holger Rogner, based on earlier work for the Global Energy Assessment.


[1] McJeon H, Edmonds J, Bauer N, Clarke L, Fisher B, Flannery BP, Hilaire J, Krey V, Marangoni G, Mi R, Riahi K, Rogner H, Tavoni M (2014). Limited impact on decadal-scale climate change from increased use of natural gas. Nature 514:482-485.

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Last edited: 28 April 2015


Volker Krey

Research Group Leader and Principal Research Scholar Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Principal Research Scholar Sustainable Service Systems Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

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New cross-cutting research on unconventional gas

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