Natural Gas is the Cleanest Fossil Fuel, but Why?

According to Independent Statistics & Analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Burning natural gas for energy results in fewer emissions of nearly all types of air pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) than burning coal or petroleum products to produce an equal amount of energy.”

But what is it about natural gas that makes it the clear winner as the cleanest fossil fuel? In this post, we’ll dive deeper into why natural gas is better for the environment and how moving away from coal and oil can further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Energy-efficient power plants are up to twice as effective at cutting emissions

Advancements in natural gas-fired power generation technology have led to the construction of new facilities capable of significantly lower emissions compared to traditional coal and oil plants.

  • Natural gas emits 50% to 60% less carbon dioxide than coal
  • Natural gas emits 30% less carbon dioxide than petroleum

In addition to reductions in CO2, natural gas burn creates less sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide than oil, making it an even safer choice for the air. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are gasses that lead to smog and the potential for acid rain, by lowering these emissions we reduce the level of these toxic chemicals in our air.

92% efficiency from wellhead to end consumer

Directly consuming natural gas in the home or place of business can nearly triple the efficiency rate compared to generating electricity in a power plant and then distributing the energy produced across the grid. The wellhead to end consumer model boasts an impressively low 8% loss in energy, compared to nearly a 70% loss in energy when converted first into electricity.

The ease of end-user consumption means more energy is produced for the same level of emissions.

Pipeline advancements are drastically lowering methane emissions

Despite the extensive expansion of natural gas pipelines, methane emissions have declined over the past three decades. This is due to industry-funded research, efficiency programs, and upgrades to leading-edge protected steel and plastic pipelines.

Domestic production leads to lower transport costs

More than 90% of the natural gas consumed in the United States each year is produced domestically. Nearly 100% is produced in North America. Compared to petroleum, which relies heavily on imports, this means far less fuel is burned during the transportation process, leading to lower emissions over the energy lifecycle.

Natural gas supports renewables

As the most cost-effective solution for a backup fuel source for the grid, natural gas makes it easier and more affordable for utilities to invest in solar, wind, and other renewables – because energy supply from renewables can be intermittent and energy demand can peak to high levels, natural gas is the perfect partner fuel to drive renewable adoption and innovation.

In addition, natural gas is the only fossil fuel with a sustainable, replenishable option. Renewable natural gas (RNG) capture and refinement remove methane from the environment while reducing the need to extract more conventional natural gas.