Natural Gas Acceptance is Growing – Along with the Pipeline and Infraustructure
With a plentiful supply of natural gas providing cost savings and environmental benefits, many states are looking to actively incentivize the expansion of natural gas infrastructure to communities not currently reached by the pipeline. At present, 39 states have either adopted innovative expansion programs or are in the planning process.
Low prices and low emissions are just two of the many reasons why natural gas acceptance is on the rise. Following a number of large-scale grid outages across the country over the past decade due to hurricanes and winter storms, both residences and businesses are worried about the resiliency of their energy supply. With underground pipes, underground storage, and large stores to balance supply and demand over the course of the year, natural gas is a popular option for boosting fuel security.
Reliability is the name of the game
Reliability is a core driver of regional acceptance, particularly for businesses that rely on consistent, dependable energy to operate. Natural gas generators hooked into the underground pipeline can provide quick startup electricity when the grid suffers an outage, with the capability to be installed so that they turn on automatically when an outage hits.
Unlike diesel, which relies on over-the-road truck delivery, natural gas is delivered underground and therefore unlikely to be compromised during a disaster. Natural gas generator technology has advanced dramatically, providing enhanced energy efficiency and lower emissions.
In addition, using diesel to power backup generators involves extensive fuel maintenance. Onsite diesel tanks must be maintained and the fuel itself will deteriorate over time if not used. Given that backup generators are most needed during an emergency, the possibility that diesel fuel has gone bad adds to the risk factor.
More growth is on the way
All signs point to continued growth for natural gas as it makes up a larger percentage of the U.S. energy mix. Natural gas currently accounts for 34% of all energy consumption and has seen a significant increase over the past decade as it has replaced coal in electricity generation in an aim to lower costs and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Natural Gas usage by the numbers
- 170+ million Americans use natural gas to heat their homes, heat their water, cook their food, and dry their clothes
- There are 5.4 million commercial natural gas customers across the country
- Pipeline infrastructure currently exceeds 2.4 million miles
- Natural gas utilities spend approximately $20 billion annually to expand and upgrade the pipeline, along with improving service and making natural gas safer at every stage of the fuel lifecycle
- 41 states offer incentives to accelerate pipeline upgrades for enhancing safety and reliability
Figure 1. US Energy Consumption by Fuel Type. Adapted from “U.S. energy facts explained,” by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved August 14, 2021, from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/us-energy-facts/.