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Friday, August 27, 2004Energy firms and their investors are becoming increasingly excited about its likeliest replacement: not wind nor wave nor solar power, but gas—or, to be precise, gas that is frozen and transported as liquefied natural gas (LNG). This is expected to become as ubiquitous and crucial to the global economy as petroleum is today.Scenario planners at Royal Dutch/Shell think that gas may surpass oil as the world's most important energy source by 2025.While oil became increasingly important during the past century, for much of that period natural gas was seen as its ugly stepsister: burnt off or “stranded” when discovered by accident, and rarely sought after.Gas is, by definition, gaseous at room temperature; oil is a liquid that can easily be transported. Gas traditionally needed elaborate systems of pipelines to get it from the wellhead to the customer. That meant it was typically used fairly close to where it was produced, shipped at great expense via pipeline—or, more often, simply wasted.The rise of LNG promises to change that. Put simply, gas can be frozen into liquid form near its source, shipped to market in refrigerated tankers, warmed back into gaseous form on foreign shores and injected into the local pipeline system. Thanks to this technological advance, gas has the potential to be a fungible, global commodity like oil.
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