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Advantages of Natural Gas in the Energy Transition

May 26, 2023

Natural gas is a vital part of today’s energy mix. When it replaces dirtier fuels, it limits greenhouse gas emissions and improves air quality.

It’s Reliable

Gas plays a crucial role in the energy transition as a bridge fuel, displacing more polluting coal and oil while providing clean air. It also provides backup for intermittent renewable energy sources like solar and wind, helping them reach total output during peak electricity usage. Because it takes less time for a gas plant to start, it can respond to sudden spikes in demand and quickly scale back down again. This reliability also comes from wireline services that companies like Brooks wireline provide, since oil and gas operations need detailed information on everything on site.

This reliability helps ensure a steady and sustainable energy supply, even in changing weather conditions and short-term energy needs. In some markets, the shale revolution and robust policies have made gas competitive versus coal, while in others, the falling costs of solar and wind could push out gas altogether.

It’s Cleaner

Gas is a fossil fuel but much cleaner than coal and oil when burned to generate electricity. It emits less conventional air pollutants (like sulfur dioxide and particulates) and half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced. It is also more efficient, requiring only about 33% of the coal heat to make a kilowatt hour of power. In addition, when used in combined-cycle plants, which use waste heat from the turbine to produce additional energy, natural gas is even more efficient than coal. For these reasons, many see it as a “clean” energy alternative to coal and, eventually, to renewables. Indeed, emissions from power plants burning coal have declined significantly since 2005 in many countries where cheap natural gas has displaced it. Local air pollution is also reduced. Moreover, natural gas has a role in backing up intermittent renewables like wind and solar. This is due to the faster on/off switching times of gas-fired power plants compared to coal-fired ones, which makes them perfect for balancing the energy supply.

It’s Cheaper

Natural gas emits less carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal. Compared to other fossil fuels, gas is also more energy-efficient; the best gas-fired power plants can produce electricity for around half the price of coal. Finally, it is relatively cheap to transport via liquefied natural gas (LNG), making it an ideal energy source for regions experiencing short-term power shortages.

In some countries, cheap gas will likely displace coal in the power sector while boosting renewables. This will require investments in new technologies that can produce electricity at a lower cost and in storage systems to provide flexible backup. In other countries, nuclear power will be phased out or shelved altogether, leaving the door open for a role for low-carbon gas in the form of natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plants.

The industry must continue to prioritize increasing supply chain transparency, decreasing emissions intensity, and maximizing efficiency. These measures will make it a viable option in transitioning to a clean energy future.

It’s Flexible

One of the pillars of the world’s energy supply is natural gas. It enhances air quality, reduces carbon dioxide emissions, and replaces more polluting fuels. It is highly adaptable and has numerous applications. Gas-fired power plants can start and stop in less than an hour, allowing them to respond quickly to short-term fluctuations in electricity demand. This makes them a good partner for renewables like solar and wind, which produce power only when the sun shines, or the wind blows. In addition, the flexibility of gas is essential to heavy industry that uses it for heating and processes. As a result, they complement renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, which can only create electricity when the sun shines, or the wind blows. Additionally, heavy industry, which uses gas for operations and heating, depends on its flexibility. This is true in developing nations, where the industrial sector has the most potential to provide low-carbon energy.

 This is where the flexibility of gas comes into its own, as it enables a shift from carbon-intensive coal or oil to renewables without losing competitiveness.

It’s Renewable 

Due to its superior environmental qualities over coal and oil, gas is essential to the energy shift. It produces less than half the CO2 and one-tenth the air pollutants when burned to make power.

 It can also replace fossil fuels in parts of the economy that cannot easily be electrified, such as industrial processes and freight transport.

Gas is a vital bridge to a clean energy future, but its role depends on how it is used. It can be produced from renewable sources, and the technology to convert waste to gas is maturing. It can be used to support the storage of intermittent renewables, and it is also a flexible fuel that can start and stop quickly when required. The current low GHG emissions from the natural gas value chain must be improved. The global average leakage rate is 2.2% of total natural gas production and must be reduced to zero.  In addition, biomethane—raw, carbon-neutral natural gas obtained from reclaimed organic matter, such as manure, crop residues, and landfill gas can significantly increase the amount of renewable energy available. It can be converted to pipeline-quality renewable natural gas (RNG) for heating, cooling, electricity generation, and transportation. It can even replace diesel in heavy vehicles, thereby reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases and local pollutants. Increasing RNG use could significantly contribute to meeting climate goals and accelerating the energy transition.

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