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Natural gas fuels bright outlook for further emissions reductions

We know that burning natural gas for electricity reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 60 percent compared to coal-fired power generation – that’s a major factor behind the historic drop in U.S. emissions highlighted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Now it turns out the emissions reductions could be even more impressive going forward.

So conclude the analysts at Benjamin Schlesinger and Associates in a study of the shift from coal to gas in U.S. power generation. Their report was written up last week in Platts Inside Energy (subscription required).

The Benjamin Schlesinger report points out that generating baseload electricity with gas typically uses combined-cycle turbines which are relatively new and highly efficient.

By contrast, much of the coal combustion that is being replaced is from power plants that are far older and considerably less efficient. More than 60 percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plants are at least 40 years old, and many of these old facilities are being shuttered.

“When gas replaces coal in power generation,” the report states, “the old coal plant is slowed or shut down in deference to electricity from a new, more efficient gas plant. Thus, less fuel is required, with less CO2 emissions.”

The report’s numbers are eye-catching: As coal plants are retired over the next few years and their production replaced by electricity from natural gas, according to Schlesinger, CO2 emissions will plummet by an average of 68 percent.

There’s a lot of talk in Washington about how to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. Seems like energy markets are already taking on that task, with the help of abundant natural gas.


3 Comments

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  1. David Newton says:

    I wonder if the developement of Plug-in Hybrids will allow for a higher baseload curve. This would allow the displacement of Oil from transportation with electricity produced at night.

    This electricity would otherwise not be used which would force the power generation industry to turn off capacity at night. This would be inefficient with coal and less so with natural gas. A coal plant has to maintain a head pressure in its boilers to be able to start up quickly in the morning as people wake up and turn on their TV’s and coffee makers. A gas plant would turnon much quicker. However if the plug-in hybrid required required more electricity demand in the night, then you can leave on the coal plant to charge the hybrids and keep working as people wake up. I originally thought a Nuke plant would be better to fill a higher base load. But now I see the flexability of a gas plant. Nuke plants take weeks to turn off and you just do not want to turn them off until the reactor needs refilling (about every 250 days).

  2. Ken Thomas says:

    Seems to me that more oil exploration is needed in our own country along with new and more efficient refineries. Less restraints on drilling and easier access to existing oil deposits would also ease the oil crisis we appear to always be in.

    Having spent some time on Mobil oil tankers shuttling between New England and Beaumont, TX, I saw first hand how much oil is processed in this country and how dependent this nation is on oil. My father was a proud Mobil oil employee for over 39 years and retired as a captain on one of the then large super tankers. He told me countless stories about very exotic places his trade took him and about the vast amount of oil he transported to this country and finished products to foreign countries

    Any other type of energy will take years to develop to a degree that oil will
    start to become less important.

    • Steve Batts says:

      Cummins, Ford and GM all have CNG vehicles ready for the road. Oklahoma has the vehicle refueling stations in place, SO does CA, but states like KS has only two for the whole state. We are sitting on untapped gas. In Oklahoma I can buy CNG for 99 cents for what is equivalent to a gallon of gas at $3.29. But in the state I live in Sam Brownback and his right wing nut jobs are not promoting CNG vehicles and there are only two refueling stations in the whole state 150 miles away.

  3. David Newton says:

    I wonder if the developement of Plug-in Hybrids will allow for a higher baseload curve. This would allow the displacement of Oil from transportation with electricity produced at night.

    This electricity would otherwise not be used which would force the power generation industry to turn off capacity at night. This would be inefficient with coal and less so with natural gas. A coal plant has to maintain a head pressure in its boilers to be able to start up quickly in the morning as people wake up and turn on their TV’s and coffee makers. A gas plant would turnon much quicker. However if the plug-in hybrid required required more electricity demand in the night, then you can leave on the coal plant to charge the hybrids and keep working as people wake up. I originally thought a Nuke plant would be better to fill a higher base load. But now I see the flexability of a gas plant. Nuke plants take weeks to turn off and you just do not want to turn them off until the reactor needs refilling (about every 250 days).

  4. Ken Thomas says:

    Seems to me that more oil exploration is needed in our own country along with new and more efficient refineries. Less restraints on drilling and easier access to existing oil deposits would also ease the oil crisis we appear to always be in.

    Having spent some time on Mobil oil tankers shuttling between New England and Beaumont, TX, I saw first hand how much oil is processed in this country and how dependent this nation is on oil. My father was a proud Mobil oil employee for over 39 years and retired as a captain on one of the then large super tankers. He told me countless stories about very exotic places his trade took him and about the vast amount of oil he transported to this country and finished products to foreign countries

    Any other type of energy will take years to develop to a degree that oil will
    start to become less important.

    • Steve Batts says:

      Cummins, Ford and GM all have CNG vehicles ready for the road. Oklahoma has the vehicle refueling stations in place, SO does CA, but states like KS has only two for the whole state. We are sitting on untapped gas. In Oklahoma I can buy CNG for 99 cents for what is equivalent to a gallon of gas at $3.29. But in the state I live in Sam Brownback and his right wing nut jobs are not promoting CNG vehicles and there are only two refueling stations in the whole state 150 miles away.