Natural gas is an extremely important source of energy for reducing pollution and maintaining a clean and healthy environment. In addition to being a domestically abundant and secure source of energy, the use of natural gas also offers a number of environmental benefits over other sources of energy, particularly other fossil fuels. This section will discuss the environmental effects of natural gas in terms of emissions, as well as the environmental impact of the natural gas industry itself. Scroll down, or click on the links below to be transported ahead.
- Emissions from the Combustion of Natural Gas
- The Natural Gas Industry and the Environment
Emissions from the Combustion of Natural Gas
Natural gas is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels, as evidenced in the Environmental Protection Agency’s data comparisons in the chart below, which is still current as of 2010. Composed primarily of methane, the main products of the combustion of natural gas are carbon dioxide and water vapor, the same compounds we exhale when we breathe. Coal and oil are composed of much more complex molecules, with a higher carbon ratio and higher nitrogen and sulfur contents. This means that when combusted, coal and oil release higher levels of harmful emissions, including a higher ratio of carbon emissions, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Coal and fuel oil also release ash particles into the environment, substances that do not burn but instead are carried into the atmosphere and contribute to pollution. The combustion of natural gas, on the other hand, releases very small amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, virtually no ash or particulate matter, and lower levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other reactive hydrocarbons.