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How Clean Is Natural Gas?

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When former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in 2013 that the natural gas boom was helping America fight climate change, not everyone was convinced, with methane leaks cited as cause for concern. As it turns out, those concerns might be warranted, according to new research that takes a lot of the green out of our precious natural gas.

“My look at the evidence to date suggests that this [methane leaks] in no way eliminates the significant advantage of gas over coal for CO2 emissions,” Moniz insisted.

Fast-forward to 2019 where research from Stanford University found that the surge in natural gas use in many parts of the world has helped to drive carbon emissions to a record-high over the last two years. Now, we’re on track to break this record and this, according to the Stanford researchers, is because of gas.

On the face of it, all looks good.

Coal use is falling in all the major emitters—the United States, China, and the European Union—and renewables use is rising. Along with it, natural gas use is rising, too. The closer look taken by researchers at natural gas, however, shows that growth in its consumption globally was responsible for 60 percent of carbon emissions growth in the last few years.

And the Stanford researchers are not alone. A report by the Global Carbon Project recently noted that emissions had increased by 2.8 percent in the U.S. last year, with China on its heels with a 2.3-percent increase, and the European Union—for all its environmental reputation—recording an emissions increase of 2.1 percent.

Natural gas consumption, the authors of the report noted, has grown by the fastest rate of all fossil fuels, not least because of its reputation as a cleaner cousin of coal. With it, emissions have risen—a correlation that is only logical. But there is more to the story.

“Natural gas use has grown in essentially every region of the world—and in many countries—over the past five years as energy consumption has increased,” the Global Carbon Project paper reads. Yet the authors do note that the decline in coal use and, therefore, emissions from coal, had been enabled by the switch to natural gas in many power plants. Still, the news is not all good.

“Coal use dropped another ten percent this year and is down by half since 2005. Cheaper natural gas and solar power are gaining market share,” one of the authors of the report and chair of the Global Carbon Project, Rob Jackson, told Salon. “But more than half of our natural gas goes to industry and homes for heating and more, not for electricity. These uses are growing rapidly, increasing fossil fuel emissions, not decreasing them.”

Indeed, back in 2014, the Union of Concerned Scientists noted in an overview of natural gas that it does emit a lot less carbon dioxide than coal when used in power generation, and less than oil derivatives when used as vehicle fuel.

However, “The drilling and extraction of natural gas from wells and its transportation in pipelines results in the leakage of methane, primary component of natural gas that is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a 100-year period and 86 times stronger over 20 years.”

It is this methane that mars natural gas’s reputation as a clean fuel and it has been garnering growing attention from regulators and the media, as well as from the energy industry.

Some oil companies have taken it upon themselves to monitor and report methane leaks, and others in the energy field have been working on methane storage and use for electricity generation. Yet this may be far from enough to deal with the leakage problem.

A new study from the MIT, published earlier this week, describes the problem succinctly.

Despite its reputation as a “bridge fuel”, “methane is itself a potent greenhouse gas, and it currently leaks from production wells, storage tanks, pipelines, and urban distribution pipes for natural gas. Increasing its usage, as a strategy for decarbonizing the electricity supply, will also increase the potential for such “fugitive” methane emissions, although there is great uncertainty about how much to expect.”

Satellite imaging is one way of tackling the problem. It just helped to uncover the full extent of ethane damage done by an Exxon well blowout in 2018. But tracking methane leaks can only go as far as generating data about the extent of the emissions problem. It cannot solve it, so forecasts see emissions rising again this year, for the third year in a row.

The silver lining: this increase will slow down.

“It’s hard to view slower growth as good news. But nonetheless, compared to last year and 2017 the growth rate was down substantially. What we need is for emissions to decline, not to rise slowly,” the GCP’s Rob Jackson told CNN earlier this month following the release of the organization’s latest report.

The only way to do this, however, would be to enact a lot stricter emissions legislation everywhere. This would be a challenging undertaking if the latest UN climate change talks are any indication. After 12 days of discussions, the delegates at this top climate change summit failed to agree on even a rule book for the Paris Agreement, including the creation of an international market for carbon permits and compensation for the countries most affected by climate change. It looks like any decisive action on methane emissions—and natural gas use—will have to wait, too.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com



29 Comments on "How Clean Is Natural Gas?"

  1. Sissyfuss on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 7:00 pm 

    Methane is a much more potent GHG than CO2. The cake is baking but the oven temperature keeps rising. Sooner or later the cake will be ruined.

  2. Duncan Idaho on Sat, 21st Dec 2019 7:42 pm 

    Methane is a much more potent GHG than CO2.
    Much more, but much a shorter half life.
    We have passed so many tipping points, that behavior is more of a existential action at this point.

  3. Kenz300 on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 1:23 pm 

    The price of wind and solar keeps dropping every year.
    It is already cheaper than coal and moving in on natural gas.

    Fossil fuels are damaging the environment and now that there are cheaper alternatives they will be phased out.

  4. JuanP is stupid on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 1:41 pm 

    lol, stupid is resurrecting Kenz. He tried Gaia for a time and then Richard GUUnette. dumbass is a multiple personality lunatic.

    This is from stupid:

    Kenz300 said The price of wind and solar keeps dropping every y…

    Kenz300 said Wind and solar energy are safer, cleaner and cheap..

  5. REAL Green on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 1:58 pm 

    According to us. Everybody is JuanP.

    Symptoms of Schizophrenia

    Hallucinations.

    These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Yet for the person with schizophrenia, they have the full force and impact of a normal experience. Hallucinations can be in any of the senses.

  6. Anonymouse on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 2:34 pm 

    You should really put down the internet expcetionalturd, and turn yourself in to whatever passes for free mental-health care in missura. You are a completely insane, and being here every single day, getting your dumbass neutered over and over, is not, to put it mildly, helping your condition any. You see juanp everywhere, call everyone ‘stupid’, despite being arguably, one of the lowest IQ dumbasses here, well, at least since ‘Boat’ got shipped off to retard school or something. Remember that simpleton? Now that, was stupid. Only confirmed case of another quasi-organic lifeform that was actually dumber than you.

    All you do, is sit in your isolated, backwater cabin, squinting at your cell-phone screen 16+ hours a day, and calling pretty much everyone here, ‘JuanP’ and or ‘stupid’. Boggles the mind to think you don’t realize just how ‘stupid’ that is. But then, you are all kinds of stupid aren’t you?

    Now someone get that get court order started so we might get the delusional one here confined for his own good. A nice cocktail of mood altering drugs and he might stop screaming juanp in fits of rage all day long. But at least he will have a, comfortable, nice jacket, a private room, and no internet.

    And throw in some old-fashioned electro-shock for good measure.

    PS ‘KenZ’ is his own moron, and is *not* ‘JaunP’.

    stupid….

  7. JuanP is stupid on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 2:34 pm 

    Stupid wishes he could be REAL Green. Stupid ID thefts REAL Green all the time because he is jealous. Stupid is REAL Stupid and mentally ill. There is no hope for stupid. He is a human refuse.

    This is from stupid:
    REAL Green said According to us. Everybody is JuanP. Symptoms of S…

  8. Anonymouse on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 2:35 pm 

    Blow jobs for boys

  9. JuanP on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 2:36 pm 

    nice thought Anon. I am with you in spirit.

  10. makati1 on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 2:37 pm 

    Ditto Anon, my special

  11. Davy on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 2:38 pm 

    Geeze, will you queer fuckers get a room together and let us take care of the intelligent talk???

  12. who else but bazarre incel insane JuanP on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 3:15 pm 

    Anonymouse on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 2:34 pm

    You should really put down the internet expcetionalturd, and turn yourself in to whatever passes for free mental-health care in missura. You are a completely insane, and being here every single day, getting your dumbass neutered over and over, is not, to put it mildly, helping your condition any. You see juanp everywhere, call everyone ‘stupid’, despite being arguably, one of the lowest IQ dumbasses here, well, at least since ‘Boat’ got shipped off to retard school or something. Remember that simpleton? Now that, was stupid. Only confirmed case of another quasi-organic lifeform that was actually dumber than you.

  13. pungent smell bazarre incel JuanP on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 3:19 pm 

    makati1 on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 2:37 pm

    Ditto Anon, my special

  14. JuanP is stupid on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 3:49 pm 

    stupid is mad as hell aren’t you stupid. lol. Like I try to tell stupid, stupid breeds stupid and you are REAL stupid

  15. makati1 on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 4:27 pm 

    Since I was asleep on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 at 2:37 pm, (Central Standard Time) It would be difficult for me to post here. That is 1:37AM here in the Philippines. I do not live on the internet like Davy.

  16. makati1 on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 4:29 pm 

    Ditto for that 3:19 pm post. Some here just have a problem with time.

  17. JuanP on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 4:37 pm 

    Mak, its my fault. I have been trolling the board all day. You are just collateral damage. Anon was too. Silly me

  18. Davy on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 4:44 pm 

    Has lost its widdle mind Makati1.

  19. makati1 on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 5:15 pm 

    Juan, please don’t troll Davy. If you troll Davy he just trolls you back. Nobody wins everyone loses.

  20. Davy on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 6:59 pm 

    At least I’m consistent.

    In high school I was voted Most Hated. I’ve continued this tradition up to the present day.

  21. Duncan Idaho on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 7:54 pm 

    Christianity Today receives boost in new subscriptions after calling for Trump’s removal

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/22/christianity-today-receives-boost-in-subscriptions-after-call-for-trump-removal.html

    At least the Fat Boy can help the Cabbages For Christ

  22. urrmigurd bazzare incel insane JuanP on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 8:04 pm 

    makati1 on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 5:15 pm

    Juan, please don’t troll Davy. If you troll Davy he just trolls you back. Nobody

  23. JuanP is stupid on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 8:35 pm 

    Sissyfuss and Duncan Idaho are stupid JuanP.

  24. Most blantant case of Davy ID theft TODAY on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 8:53 pm 

    makati1 (daveeee) on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 5:15 pm

  25. Duncan Idaho on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 9:23 pm 

    Trump’s corporate giveaways and failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day
    (How Trump has betrayed the working class)
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/22/trump-wants-to-be-champion-of-the-working-class-but-with-tax-cuts-for-the-rich-it-doesnt-add-up

  26. fwsmj on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 10:37 pm 

    Duncan Idaho on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 9:23 pm

    Trump’s corporate giveaways and failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day
    (How Trump has betrayed the work

    Supertard please put the lib urn down on the
    Ground gently and walk away backward slowly

    Who keeps buying up all the lib urns
    I been looking all over to no avail

  27. full woke supremacist muzzies jerk on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 11:16 pm 

    Muzzie attack cop cop shot dead muzzie
    Obviously muzzies is victim
    If muzzies killed cop muzzie is victim
    That why the gate toward muzzies anti rape machine is wide

    Muzzies akbar sayeed used supremacist muzzie low English in accordance to muzzie doctrine to humiliate infidels. Whitey supertard John Brady committed suicide as a result. Students are angry. 800 ppl signed petition against muzzie akbar

    Obviously muzzies akbar is victim

    Muzzies shooting in moscow

    In all cases muzzies are victims
    Everyone loves muzzies 10000x

    Imagine the world without muzzies
    Imagine if you can all muzzies go to muzzies anti rape machine

  28. full woke supremacist muzzies jerk on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 11:19 pm 

    Muzzie attack cop in temple cop shot muzzies dead. Obviously muzzies is victim. If muzzies killed cop muzzie still victim

    Muzzies sabotaged muzzies lovin AA and got loved in form of reporting as “union dispute”
    Muzzies got off for nothing

  29. JuanP is stupid on Mon, 23rd Dec 2019 4:15 am 

    nightly stupid

    This is from stupid:
    full woke supremacist muzzies jerk said Muzzie attack cop in temple cop shot muzzies dead….

    full woke supremacist muzzies jerk said Muzzie attack cop cop shot dead muzzie Obviously m…

    fwsmj said Duncan Idaho on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 9:23 pm Trump’…

    Julien Peter Benney said Apneaman, energy subsidies are a severe problem, e…

    Most blantant case of Davy ID theft TODAY said makati1 (daveeee) on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 5:15 pm

    JuanP is stupid said Sissyfuss and Duncan Idaho are stupid JuanP.

    urrmigurd bazzare incel insane JuanP said makati1 on Sun, 22nd Dec 2019 5:15 pm Juan, pleas…

    Davy said At least I’m consistent. In high school I w…

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