Natural gas production has been rising since the economic crisis of 2008 with a compound annual growth rate of 2.6%. And in 2017, global natural gas production hit a record of 3.768 billion cubic meters. According to the Energy Information Administration, that production translates into more than 35% of Americans using natural gas as a source of fuel in their homes.
With the growing use of natural gas in the United States, what do you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of this fossil fuel?
What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is one of the three biggest fossil energy sources in the world today. The fuel develops deep beneath the earth’s surface from organic matter aged over millions of years. The largest component of natural gas is methane, though there are also traces of hydrocarbon gases and hydrocarbon gas liquids.
Cons of Natural Gas
Though there are benefits of natural gas, the drawbacks are considerable. Specifically when it comes to extracting, transporting, and maintaining infrastructure for the fuel.
- Non-renewable: Although we currently have extensive resources available, there is no promise of finding new reserves in the future. Once we deplete our existing supply, we might not find enough natural gas for our power and fuel needs.
- Harmful in its natural state: Because this fuel is primarily composed of methane, unburned natural gas is around 70 times as potent as carbon dioxide.
- Explosive, potentially dangerous: One of the biggest hazards of natural gas is that it is toxic and explosive, making a leak potentially fatal. For example, in 2010 a natural gas pipeline exploded in a residential area of San Bruno, Calif., killing eight people.
- Hard to detect: Natural gas is normally odorless, however, most companies add a scent to it (usually sulfur) to make a leak easy to detect.
- Requires expensive infrastructure to deliver: Much of the infrastructure to extract and transport natural gas hasn’t been upgraded since the 1970s. New upgrades are necessary to maintain the effectiveness of this system, but they will come at a price.
- Expensive to bring to your home: If your home is not currently outfitted for natural gas it can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 to make the conversions for your home.
Pros of Natural Gas
Now that we’ve gotten the drawbacks accounted for, let’s explore why a homeowner would consider natural gas.
- Cleaner than other fossil fuels: Natural gas produces roughly 50% fewer emissions than coal when it’s burned.
- Versatile: Natural gas can be used for more than just heating your home. It also powers a range of everyday appliances like ovens, dryers, fireplaces, generators and outdoor lighting. Additionally, natural gas is easy for homeowners to store.
- Abundant: As of 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates there were roughly 2,462 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of recoverable natural gas in the U.S. With a current rate of U.S. consumption, at 27.5 Tcf per year, America should have enough natural gas to last for 90 years.
- Environmentally friendly: Natural gas is less disruptive to the environment than coal mining. Mining coal can overtake entire hillsides to extract the fuel. When extracting natural gas, the ground stays mostly intact.
- Good for the economy: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mining natural gases directly employs nearly 754,000 people. And, other subsects of the industry like distribution, transportation, and production help add to the nearly 3 million total jobs the natural gas industry supports.
- Cost-effective: Even when prices for natural gas reach highs, like $3.00 per 1 million BTUs, it’s still much less expensive than crude oil. At its lowest points, crude oil is priced at $49 per barrel, which equals roughly $8.50 per 1 million BTUs of natural gas. Still, there is an argument to be had that propane is actually the more efficient, and affordable home heating fuel.
Managing Natural Gas Properly
Natural gas provides access to a cleaner fossil fuel that is equally effective to other energy sources available. While there are certain hazards which we must account for when using this resource, if carefully managed, natural gas is one of the most viable and clean energy sources on earth.
And, there are things all homeowners can do to mitigate risk:
Santa Fuel has been a reliable and dependable source for Connecticut heating services for decades. Not only does Santa Fuel provide heating oil services, but we also perform energy audits to decrease your heating bills, and offer alternative heating solutions such as natural gas system installations, conversions, and repairs, and offer 24-hour tech service when you need us most.