Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Is Natural Gas Really A Cleaner Source Of Energy?

In the Commissioning ceremony of Sabah Energy Corporation Sdn Bhd (SEC) Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Project via Virtual Pipeline System at Colourcoil Industries Sdn Bhd in Telipok yesterday, Sabah State Resource Development and Information Technology Minister, Datuk Siringan Gubat said that the usage of natural gas in the industry will help reduce cost and preserve the environment [Source: Sabah Times].

“We will also be able to preserve our pristine environment and maintain our position as preferred eco-tourism destination,” Datuk Siringan said adding that using natural gas is in line with the government’s policy to encourage the use of cleaner energy to drive economic growth.

But Is Natural Gas Really Cleaner?

New research by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S.A., casts doubt on the assumption that gas is less effect on climate change, after considering the pollution associated with the full "life cycle" of gas production. Commonly natural gas is considered 50% less greenhouse gases than coal. But this number only considers the emissions from the tailpipe or smokestack and do not account for the methane and other pollution emitted when the gas was extracted and piped to power plants and other customers.

The EPA's new analysis doubles its previous estimates for the amount of methane gas that leaks from loose pipe fittings and is vented from gas wells. Calculations for some gas-field emissions jumped by several hundred percent. Methane levels from the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas were 9,000 times higher than previously reported.

When all these emissions are counted, gas may be as little as 25%, perhaps even less, cleaner than coal.

How Does Natural Gas Affect Global Climate?

Methane, the primary component of natural gas and the most potent of the greenhouse gases. It's 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Using that equation, a ton of methane emissions is the equivalent of 21 tons of carbon dioxide. 

Some scientists argue that the impact of methane gas should be calculated over a shorter time period, because methane degrades quickly, and because gas drilling releases large quantities of methane into the atmosphere all at once, likely concentrating and amplifying the effect. If methane's potency were considered over 20 years rather than 100 years, it would be 72 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in terms of its warming potential.

More data is needed to really understand the impact of natural gas on global warming. It might be to soon to claim that it is milder than other fossil fuels when come to global warming.

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