Natural gas surpasses coal as power source for 1st time, BP report says


U.S. power plants burned more natural gas than coal for the first time last year, one factor that kept global CO2 emissions the lowest in years, a key oil company economist said Thursday.

“You can go back as long as you want in history, coal had always been the dominant source of fuel in U.S. power, until last year,” Spencer Dale, chief economist for British oil giant BP, told Houston business and civic leaders at a presentation of the company’s annual Statistical Review. Dale said the report, in its 65th year, is the longest-running review of world energy supply and demand.

CO2 emissions grew by 0.1 percent in 2015, according to the report, the lowest growth rate outside of the 2009 recession since 1992. Dale attributed the decline in part to the U.S. boom in shale-drilled natural gas. A glut in production and low demand reduced prices, he said, and made natural gas more economical for power plants.

Dale acknowledged that a weak global economy also helped check emissions. The world’s energy consumption grew by 1 percent, half its annual average over the past five years, according to the report. Chinese demand crept up by just 1.5 percent in 2015, far less than in previous years.

And though global oil use ballooned by 1.9 million barrels per day, or 1.9 percent ­— nearly double the recent historical average — coal dipped 1.8 percent, the largest decline on record, the report said. In the U.S., coal use dropped by almost 13 percent.

Globally, coal accounted for less than 30 percent of energy consumption, its lowest share since 2005. (by David Hunn, FuelFix)