Who is the gassiest of them all?

Although thinking endlessly about the UK’s energy system and potential transitions is good and interesting it often makes sense to take a step back and look at the wider context. Maybe the UK is an outlier in terms of gas and how it is used. Maybe it’s perfectly normal. So what I wanted to do was to take a global context and look at how the UK relates to the rest of the world when it comes to gas use. As far as I am aware, no-one has taken this approach before.

So the first step was to determine which countries had the highest demand. I used BP 2013 statistical review data for this. The 25 countries with the highest gas demand are shown below in the left column.
I then wanted to see how these countries compared in terms of what share of their energy mix was made up of gas. This is shown below in the right hand column.
mtoe % share gas
US 654.0 Uzbekistan 85.3
Russian Federation 374.6 United Arab Emirates 63.4
Iran 140.5 Iran 60.0
China 129.5 Egypt 54.4
Japan 105.1 Russian Federation 54.0
Saudi Arabia 92.5 Pakistan 53.8
Canada 90.6 Argentina 51.8
Mexico 75.3 Saudi Arabia 41.6
United Kingdom 70.5 Mexico 40.1
Germany 67.7 Thailand 39.2
Italy 61.8 Italy 38.0
United Arab Emirates 56.6 Netherlands 36.8
India 49.1 Ukraine 35.6
Egypt 47.3 Turkey 35.0
Thailand 46.1 United Kingdom 34.6
South Korea 45.0 Other Middle East 32.1
Ukraine 44.6 US 29.6
Uzbekistan 43.1 Canada 27.6
Argentina 42.6 Japan 22.0
Turkey 41.7 Germany 21.7
Other Middle East 39.6 Indonesia 20.2
France 38.2 South Korea 16.6
Pakistan 37.3 France 15.6
Netherlands 32.8 India 8.7
Indonesia 32.2 China 4.7
There are a couple of interesting things you can pull out of this data and it may be worthy of further analysis but there doesn’t necessarily seem to be a link between the size of demand and the percentage share. China for example has a huge demand but a small share of gas in its mix likely to to it’s size whereas Iran has a high demand and high share. The US also shows little correlation and actual demand may most likely be a factor of a countries scale and gas availability.
But my original thinking was that maybe if a country has a high demand for gas and a high percentage share then that country may be more likely to have a more developed distribution network. Interestingly this does not seem to be the case. I have trawled through various publications and reports to discover the following which talks about the countries roughly in order of their gas energy mix share.
Uzbekistan, previously part of the USSR has the highest percentage share of gas in the world however heat is generally provided centrally through district heating and boiler houses using gas. UEA has the next biggest gas share and uses most of its gas for oil recovery and power generation. Iran does have a large number of homes connected to the gas network although exact numbers are not clear. Egypt has around a third of all homes connected to the gas network. Russia, with the 5th largest gas share has very few connections with 72% of heat coming from district heating. Both Pakistan and Argentina have a relatively small gas network focused in urban areas and this is the same for Mexico. Note that there is very little information on Saudi Arabia although I imagine that there isn’t a huge heating demand over there. Similarly Thailand with the 10th largest gas share uses most of the gas for industry and power.
Things start getting interesting with Italy. As 11th gas hungriest country around 70% of homes are connected to the gas grid meaning that it has one of the most developed gas networks in the world. However, it is beaten by the Netherlands which has 97% of homes connected to the network – the world leader! There are mixed messages about Ukraine with the gas company suggesting a large number of connections but also a large district heating system in the country. Turkey interestingly has a relatively high residential natural gas consumption and plans to significantly grow the network further. Next up is the UK which has the worlds second highest gas connection rate of 83% of homes connected.
Both the US and Canada have around 50% of homes connected. Japan uses a relatively small amount of gas for heating. Germany has around 42% of the population connected to gas and this is similar to France at 41%. Indonesia uses gas mostly for industry and power generation and South Korea has lots of district heating. Currently India has a low number of connections though is planning to grow. China has around 14% of it’s urban population connected to gas networks which although relatively low still suggests a large number of connections.
I think two interesting things come out of these numbers. Firstly, they give me two other countries to to look at in detail; Italy and the Netherlands. It will be interesting to see what these countries are doing regarding their long term strategy for heat particularly as Italy’s gas production has peaked and the Netherlands is likely to become a net important of gas in the next decade.
Also interesting is the question of how countries around the world are going to grow their gas networks. Although it makes sense on the short term to reduce costs and cut emissions, will these countries end up in a similar position to the UK with assets that are not compatible with a low-carbon vision

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