Natural gas BBQs are one option for outdoor cooking at home. The gas industry, however, is a major source of methane emissions. This calls into question these BBQs’ climate credentials.
What are natural gas BBQs?
Natural gas BBQs use the gas supplied by your local utility company. These models don’t use charcoal or gas bottles as fuel. Instead, you connect your device to the gas pipes in your home. The BBQ burns this gas to cook your food.
Where does Australia’s natural gas come from?
Australia has both onshore and offshore underground gas sources. The country holds about one per cent of the world’s total natural gas reserves. Western Australia produces the most gas in Australia. The state’s North-West Shelf has most remaining conventional natural gas in Australia. Queensland is the largest gas producer on the east coast. Primarily unconventional gas sources remain in the eastern states.
Unconventional gas sources are expensive to extract and produce. This is one reason why energy suppliers propose to import gas back from Japan. This gas would supply Australia’s eastern states. It would also increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Pros of natural gas BBQs
Your BBQ shop will carry many options. A benefit of gas BBQs is that you won’t run out of gas while cooking. Plus, once you install your BBQs, there is no need to buy gas bottles.
Natural gas also burns cleaner than charcoal. It even produces less pollutants when you BBQ than propane. That is the gas inside your gas bottles.
Cons of natural gas BBQs
Gas BBQs are not portable. Instead, they are connected to your home. Installation can be time-consuming. It is also expensive if you do not live near a gas main. Conventional wisdom says natural gas is a cheap way to cook. This is no longer true in Australia, however. This is because of high tariffs and daily service charges. Unfortunately, natural gas is also bad for the climate.
When you cook with natural gas, it releases carbon dioxide (CO2). As mentioned above, natural gas releases less CO2 than other BBQ fuels. However, the natural gas you use for your BBQ is composed nearly entirely of methane. This poses a big problem to the climate. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is far greater than methane. But methane traps up to 86 times more heat over 20 years and 34 times more over a century.
Methane is released in the various steps it takes for natural gas to get from underground to your home. There is evidence that there are more of these emissions than we thought. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency has underestimated US methane emissions by more than 60 per cent. The global fossil fuel industry has underestimated the methane it emits each year by 25 per cent to 40 per cent. The estimates in Australia are also likely to be unreliable. This is due to outdated assumptions that the oil and gas industry use to estimate methane emissions in Australia. It may be time to visit your BBQ shop and compare options, especially for freestanding, outdoor cooking.
What are the alternative ways to BBQ?
The three most common BBQ fuel types found in any shop are gas, electric and charcoal. BBQs use natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). In Australia, LPG is composed of propane. That is what is in your gas bottle. Electric BBQs are popular because they are easy to use for both indoor and outdoor cooking. You can plug them into any electric power source. Like natural gas BBQs, you won’t run out of fuel while you cook. Charcoal provides the smoky flavour many of us associate with BBQs and is ideal for outdoor, freestanding cooking. If you have a charcoal BBQ, you can still be climate-conscious. Try to shop for high-quality charcoal made purely of sustainably harvested trees.
Natural gas BBQs: Why you should consider an alternative
In 2021, New Zealand’s Climate Change Commission advised the government to ban new natural gas connections to buildings and bottled LPGs after 2025. This is part of New Zealand’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The reason for this ban is to avoid stranded assets, according to Commission chair Rod Carr. In this case, new gas pipes will become useless as gas use declines and renewable electricity becomes cheaper.
Solar and wind are already the cheapest sources of energy in Australia, according to the CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. That means gas generation is also likely to decline in Australia. This is even the case in Western Australia – the state that consumes the most gas.
Batteries can store renewable energies
Big batteries to store renewables have replaced the need for gas. This has forced electricity companies to pause plans to build new gas-fired power plants. This is positive news. About 50 per cent of Australian gas reserves need to remain in the ground if global warming is to stay under 2℃ by 2030.
So, if you’re in the market for a new BBQ, avoid natural gas. Instead, consider an electric model. This is the best option for the climate and your wallet.