The Environmental Story
Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel – twice as clean as coal, for example.
Using natural gas to generate electricity can contribute dramatically to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that are currently fueled by coal.
In addition, burning natural gas releases virtually none of the particulate matter that contributes to ground-level smog.
And because natural gas requires minimal processing and can be efficiently delivered via pipelines, its production and delivery consume less energy than is used for many other fuel sources – another factor in evaluating environmental impact.
The Economic Story
Natural gas provides nearly a fourth of North America’s energy today.
It contributes to the economy at many levels, from the jobs of those who find, produce and deliver natural gas to the businesses that depend on it as a clean fuel source for industrial operations and as a feedstock for the chemicals industry. It is equally important at home: in the United States, more than half of all residences are heated with natural gas.
Almost all of the natural gas used in North America is produced in the United States and Canada. New natural gas discoveries, primarily gas in shale and sand formations, have increased the total potential North American gas resource base by 72 percent since 2000. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there’s enough recoverable gas to supply the world for 250 years – including the U.S. for 100 years – at current production levels.
The Innovation Story
Natural gas can play a supporting role in expanding the use of renewable energy sources.
For many of these resources, such as wind and solar energy, a major challenge is lack of reliability. What happens when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow? Using natural gas as a backup power source allows more reliable energy production, making renewable resources more practical to adopt.
Innovations are also making natural gas even more widely available. In addition to advances in drilling technology that are unlocking more domestic natural gas resources, new transport technology is allowing natural gas to be liquefied at ultra-low temperatures and shipped in specially designed tankers.
This liquefied gas can then be offloaded and returned to its gaseous state at terminals connected to the natural gas pipeline system.
- The History of Natural Gas - The U.S. Department of Energy offers a history of natural gas.