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12 Pros and Cons of Natural Gas – AEN News

Extraction of shale gas through hydraulic fracturing (fracking).


Natural gas represents one of the three sources of fossil fuels used on our planet to generate electricity and heat, and even if some researchers consider natural gas as a cleaner energy source (cleaner than coal and oil because releases less emissions while burning) we cannot consider this energy source as a green one.

Because the human society is moving towards a cleaner future where extremely polluting energy sources such as coal and oil will be used less and less, and will be slowly replaced by “cleaner sources of energy” such as natural gas (as the main source of energy on the planet) and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass and others as a secondary source of energy, it is time to know better what are pros and cons of natural gas.

Pros of Natural Gas

1. Natural gas releases less carbon emissions than other fossil fuel resources

Natural gas is known as a “cleaner energy source” because while burning, it releases 45% less carbon emissions than coal, and 30% less carbon emissions than oil.

Due to this property of producing less pollution compared to coal and oil, natural gas is considered the fossil energy source that will successfully replace coal and oil as the main energy source on the planet in the following decades.

2. Natural gas represents a cheaper energy source

In many countries, there are drivers that are using cars with engines running on natural gas because this energy source is cheaper than oil.

Besides the fact that natural gas is cheaper at the pump compared to gasoline or diesel, the cars with engines running on natural gas are more efficient.

Natural gas is also used for heating and cooking because is an affordable energy source and releases less harmful emissions into the environment.

3. Natural gas is an abundant and accessible energy source

Today, there are about 6,879 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of world reserves of gross natural gas that were already proven, from which about 2,355 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of technically recoverable resources of dry natural gas are located in the U.S. (source: eia.gov).

Natural gas is a finite source of energy (exactly like coal and oil), but because natural gas was not used as the main energy source on the planet by now, and there are many other sites with reserves of natural gas that are undiscovered yet, we consider that this energy source is capable of successfully replace coal and oil as the main energy source on the planet for the following two or three decades.

4. Technology used to extract natural gas is available worldwide

The technology used to extract natural gas is very similar to the technology used to extract oil, and they go hand in hand in some extracting sites.

5. Natural gas can be easily transported

After being extracted from the land or sea subsurface, natural gas is not ready for transportation yet, and it must be treated to avoid any possible damage to the systems.

Different admixtures are coming out of the well along with natural gas during the extraction process, and these must be cleaned several times at the well outlet, and sometimes even during the transmission through pipelines at compressor stations.

However, once cleaned, natural gas can be easily transported through pipelines and via large ships (tankers) on the entire planet.

6. Natural gas is widely used in the chemical industry

Natural gas is used in the chemical industry to produce plastics and different chemicals.

Is also used to produce fertilizers for agriculture, and is considered a cheap energy source to produce hydrogen.

Cons of Natural Gas

1. Natural gas is still a fossil energy source

Even if natural gas is considered an energy source that releases less harmful emissions compared to coal and oil, natural gas is still a polluting energy source that can be used only to replace more harmful fossil fuels (for the environment) for a future with less emissions.

2. Burning natural gas increases the greenhouse effect on the planet

Burning natural gas (to generate electricity, heating, in the engine of a vehicle or simply for cooking) will release harmful emissions such as: carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and negligible amounts of mercury, sulfur and particulates.

The leakage of methane (a primary component of natural gas), which is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a period of a century and 86 times stronger than CO2 over a period of two decades, is usually produced during extraction from wells and during transportation through pipelines.

3. Natural gas is limited and unsustainable

Natural gas and its fellow fossil energy sources (coal and oil) are representing limited sources of energy and will be depleted somewhere in a not so distant future.

Natural gas is a non-renewable and a non-sustainable energy source, and even if today we are planning to use natural gas as a replacer for coal and oil because is considered “cleaner”, it is more than obvious that natural gas will be used only for a few more decades on the planet, and will be replaced by renewable energy sources by the mid of the century.

Natural gas pipeline burning in California.

4. Natural gas is a highly flammable energy source

Unlike coal and oil (not to mention the renewables), natural gas is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can cause huge damage when exploding.

Usually an odorant is added to it to ease the detection capability, but even so, its domestic use causes from time to time accidents (which can lead to loss of human life and huge financial losses due to negligence).

5. Extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing is harming the environment

Natural gas exactly like oil is extracted from deposits located deep underground through drilling wells.

Hydraulic fracturing or simply fracking is a relatively new technological process used for the extraction of oil and gas, and represents a well stimulation technique in which the rock is fractured by a highly pressurized liquid.

Sadly, extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing is causing damage to the environment because it could lead to drinking water contamination (the highly pressurized liquid contains dangerous chemicals) in the area of the well and earthquakes due to the fracturing of underground rock.

6. Natural gas requires an expensive pipeline infrastructure

Natural gas is transported for long distances through expensive pipelines secured by expensive systems (the gas is highly flammable), and any pipeline leakage leads to extra running costs.

The transportation of natural gas through land and sea requires specialized tanks which are not cheap.

As you may see, natural gas as a fossil source of energy has its advantages, but also many disadvantages.

However, natural gas is a cleaner energy source if compared to coal and oil, and would successfully replace coal and oil as the main energy source on the planet at least until the switch to 100% renewable energy sources.

Danny Ovy

Danny Ovy

I am a writer and reporter for the clean energy sector, I cover climate change issues, new clean technologies, sustainability and green cars.

Danny Ovy
Danny Ovy
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