Natural Gas: A Critical Component of the Global Energy Transition
What Is Natural Gas?
As the world continues to seek cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, natural gas has emerged as an essential part of the solution. The advantages of natural gas are plentiful. Natural gas is more environmentally friendly than traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil and offers many other benefits that make it a smart choice for transitioning toward sustainable energy production. The domestic availability is high, it’s easier and cheaper to capture and clean natural gas than other alternatives, and it produces less harmful emissions than burning oil or coal. Plus, with an established natural gas distribution network already in place, providing stable ’round-the-clock power has never been more realistic.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is primarily composed of methane (CH4), but it can also contain small amounts of other hydrocarbons, such as ethane, propane, and butane. It is formed over millions of years from the buried remains of plants and animals that have been subjected to high heat and pressure.
It’s found in underground rock formations and is typically extracted using drilling techniques and is a good source of energy for heating, cooking, and electricity generation, as well as in industrial processes and transportation. Natural gas is comparatively a far cleaner fuel source than oil and coal, as it produces fewer pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.
What are the Benefits of Using Natural Gas?
Natural gas has numerous advantages as an energy source, including its emissions benefits, low cost, and ready availability:
Natural Gas is Reliable and Readily Available
One of the primary advantages of natural gas is that it is a reliable and readily available source of energy. Unlike other renewable sources like wind and solar power, which are dependent on weather conditions, natural gas can be produced and distributed around the clock, all year round, ensuring a steady supply of energy. Additionally, natural gas is abundant in many parts of the world, making it an easily accessible and reliable source of energy. Natural gas provides over a third (39.8%) of our energy today, and 92% of the natural gas consumed in the US is produced domestically. Thanks to the advanced infrastructure of the industry, distribution across the US is safe, easy, and affordable, without any of the storage and transportation risks associated with coal and oil.
Natural Gas Makes Sense Financially
The biggest contributor to the overall cost of electricity is generation (59% of the total cost), followed by distribution (28%). As existing infrastructure can easily be adapted for natural gas production, and because companies can easily develop 800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas for around $3 per cubic foot Natural Gas Solution, natural gas is a far more cost-effective solution for meeting energy and decarbonization demands. Unlike oil, natural gas prices have steadily declined, with natural gas prices expected to average $3.33/MMBtu in 2023, compared to $6.42/MMBtu in 2022 (per S&P Global). The US is particularly well-positioned to start distributing natural gas on a large scale, with more than 2.4 million miles of pipeline infrastructure available for use.
Natural Gas Can Cope With Demand Fluctuations
The US grid is managed live, which means that extreme weather and high demand can easily lead to widespread rolling blackouts and power outages, especially during heat waves or harsh winter conditions. Texans have endured more blackouts than any other state, with severe power failures in 2011, 2021, and 2023. Natural gas is far more resilient and consistent, even during extreme weather events and demand fluctuations.
Unlike renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, which can be variable depending on weather conditions, natural gas can be adjusted quickly to meet changing energy demands. The Temple 1 power plant’s High Efficiency, Low Emissions (HELE) technology provides higher power output during high-temperature conditions, while targeted winterization upgrades also allow it to handle extremely low-temperature conditions as well. These factors keep the plant online and provide power to the grid even during extreme heat or cold.
Natural Gas and the Environment
Natural Gas Can Play a Key Role in the Management of CO2
One of the most significant advantages of natural gas is that it generates fewer emissions of air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, in comparison to burning coal or petroleum products to produce the same amount of energy. The Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions states that the combustion of natural gas emits about 50% less CO₂ than coal and 30% less than oil for every unit of energy delivered.
BKV’s Temple 1 power plant utilizes some of the latest, most advanced emissions-control technology, making it one of the cleanest natural gas-fueled power providers in the United States. Natural gas also has a 3X efficiency rate from the well to home compared to coal.
The sedimentary basins and subsurface rock formations that trap huge reservoirs of natural gas can be more easily harvested with significantly less environmental impact than fossil fuel alternatives like coal and oil.
Natural gas can be stored in uncompressed, compressed, or liquefied form. Natural gas production ensures minimal impact across our landscapes by storing resources underground in salt formations or already depleted natural gas reserves, aquifers, or oil reservoirs.
Treating and purifying the carbon dioxide extracted from natural gas allows it to be repurposed. From carbonated drinks, foods, and medicines to plastics, fuels, cement, and building materials, CO2 can be recycled in a variety of purposeful ways.
Overall, natural gas offers a number of benefits that make it an ideal choice for transitioning toward sustainable energy production. With its reliability, cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and potential for reducing carbon emissions, natural gas is a valuable component of any sustainable energy strategy. While it is important to continue exploring and investing in other renewable energy sources, natural gas is a proven and practical solution for meeting our energy needs while reducing our impact on the environment.