The Advantages of Natural Gas As a Sustainable Energy Source

Natural gas, whether in its raw form or as liquefied natural gas (LNG), is increasingly vital as a bridging fuel. It produces fewer conventional air pollutants and carbon dioxide than coal when burned to produce electricity.

However, natural gas is a finite resource that will eventually expire, like oil and coal. So, is it a sustainable energy source?

It’s Cleaner

Natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil, making it a good choice for power plants and industrial processes. It is also the energy source that generates over one-third of electricity and fuels millions of homes, offices, hospitals, and factories.

The EPA says that compared to other fossil fuels, burning natural gas emits fewer greenhouse gases and produces less air pollution. In addition, it is a versatile energy source that provides excellent bridging power to a renewable energy future.

For example, it can be used with renewables to produce a constant electricity supply by filling gaps in wind and solar production and as a backup for hydropower during drought conditions. It can even be injected into underground storage wells to keep carbon dioxide levels from rising during peak use.

However, the environmental advantages of natural gas are undermined by poor production practices and leaking transportation pipelines that release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the environment. Scientists are concerned that relying on this “bridge fuel” will lock the world into a high-carbon, fast-warming future. That is why policymakers and energy companies must minimize methane leakage from drilling, pipelines, and other operations. Minimizing these emissions will help the climate and save money for ratepayers by reducing energy costs.

It’s Cheaper

Natural gas is cheaper than other energy sources, including electricity and oil. That’s one of the reasons it’s increasingly used as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels in power generation and for heating homes and vehicles.

It’s the cleanest of all fossil fuels, producing about half the carbon dioxide and a tenth of the air pollutants as coal when burned to generate electricity. It also has fewer conventional air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and particulates, and emits significantly less mercury than coal and oil. That’s why it is often viewed as the environmentally-friendly “bridge fuel” to a cleaner, more renewable energy future.

MR: However, there is an inherent risk in looking at natural gas as a bridge fuel that we should be careful to avoid. While it is much cleaner than coal and oil in terms of emissions, burning natural gas still emits CO2. Science tells us we need to transition to zero-emissions energy sources as quickly as possible to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

This is why it’s critical to focus on improving the efficiency of appliances and equipment and switching to more clean, renewable alternatives – while keeping a close eye on natural gas use as a bridge fuel when necessary. By combining it with solar and wind, for example, we can provide the reliability of a reliable power source to our homes and businesses even when renewables aren’t available at their peak production.

It’s Available

As fossil fuels lose popularity, natural gas is emerging as a viable replacement. It’s been billed as a “bridge fuel” to a zero-emissions energy future since it emits significantly less carbon dioxide and air pollutants than coal or oil. However, methane leaks from the extraction, production, and transportation of the gas may negate the climate benefits it offers.

Like other fossil fuels, natural gas is formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals, which accumulated on Earth’s surface and ocean floors before being submerged under sand and rock. Millions of years later, heat and pressure transformed these materials into a natural gas called methane. Today, the vast majority of natural gas comes from underground deposits. It’s extracted using the controversial fracking technique, which involves pumping water into underground deposits to bring methane closer to the surface. The method has been linked to health problems, environmental damage, and large methane leaks.

However, methane can also be extracted from sludge and seawater at shallow temperatures, known as biogenic methane. In addition, methane stored in frozen permafrost in the Arctic could be unlocked by a technology known as thermochemical looping. Similarly, methane can be converted into hydrogen using steam reforming to generate electricity with lower CO2 emissions. This system could be combined with renewable energy sources to reduce CO2 emissions further.

It’s Versatile

Natural gas can be used for electricity, heating, cooking, and other purposes. It has a shallow carbon footprint when burned compared to coal and produces significantly less emissions than other fossil fuels, such as oil. It is also highly versatile. It can be used to generate electricity in power plants or combined heat and power systems, and it is a more flexible energy source than renewables because it takes much less time for a gas-fired power plant to start up or shut down. This makes it a valuable backup to a renewable-based electricity system, especially during peak use times when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing.

In addition, natural gas is the fuel of choice for heating homes, and it can be stored more quickly than other energy sources. It can also be transported over long distances more safely than oil or coal because it is a lighter and safer fuel. Furthermore, it is available from a domestic, reliable supply and has an established distribution infrastructure.

Despite these advantages, it is essential to remember that natural gas is not renewable and will still contribute to climate change. Therefore, it is a bridge fuel to a cleaner, more sustainable future and should not be considered a substitute for a clean energy solution.