Natural Gas: A History of Reliability and Resiliency
As a utility, natural gas boasts a history of very few notable outages hence its track record of reliability. This is due to the inherent properties of the fuel, the physical characteristics of storage and distribution systems, and the simplicity of natural gas-fired appliances.
Whether we’re speaking of providing fuel to power plants, heating residential homes, and businesses, or keeping America’s farmland running, natural gas is the most reliable and resilient fuel source at our disposal, with ample supply at our disposal to provide decades of energy strength. The reliability and resiliency of natural gas is truly incredible.
A Clear Winner Over Diesel
Aside from lower emissions and lower costs, natural gas enjoys two primary advantages over diesel as a backup fuel. Whereas onsite diesel storage can provide up to three days of industrial generator run time, the natural gas pipeline can bring weeks to months of fuel, a vital difference during weather events that could block roads and prevent trucks from refilling diesel tanks. In addition, unlike diesel which requires fuel maintenance, natural gas can be stored indefinitely with zero loss to utility.
3 Reasons to Expect Further Growth of Domestic Natural Gas Supply
According to the EIA, natural gas exports reached an all-time high in 2020 at 5.28 Tcf. For the fourth year in a row, the United States was a net exporter of natural gas. This speaks volumes to the capacity for domestic production to meet and exceed demand for the foreseeable future. Production capacity is only expected to grow as:
- The natural gas pipeline is upgraded and expanded
- Natural gas industry operations are improved and streamlined due to technological advancement
- Unconventional gas supply ramps up, including but not limited to RNG
Robust Underground Storage Solutions Provide Stability Against Demand Peaks and Extreme Climate Events
Underground storage is a vital component of the U.S. energy system, allowing utilities to provide clean and abundant natural gas to consumers throughout the year with dependable service and rates. Underground storage protects backup natural gas supplies from severe weather conditions and facilitates the injection of reserve supply into the distribution network during the winter months.
- In a given year, approximately 20% of all-natural gas consumed during the peak season originates from underground storage.
- The national storage system provides more than sufficient backup supply. When natural gas hit its historic peak demand, on January 7, 2014, 50% of the total supply was delivered from underground storage to the pipeline.1
- There are currently around 400 active storage facilities across 30 states. The total natural gas storage capacity in the national storage system is approximately 4 trillion cubic feet.
Domestic natural gas supplies are expected to be adequately strong to easily meet demand growth across all sectors for the next decade and beyond. The development and advancement of key technologies have unlocked gas production from new reservoirs that will continue to drive up the domestic natural gas supply for years to come.
Figure 1 above. Natural Gas Total Future Supply by Region. Adapted from “Reliable Natural Gas,” by the American Gas Association with data provided by The Potential Gas Committee (PGC) assessment. Retrieved August 14, 2021, from https://www.aga.org/natural-gas/reliable/.