7 Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas

Is no news that natural gas has been said to be the solution to our energy challenges due to the quality it possesses coherent, meanwhile it is also a big threat to our environment today.

Though it releases lesser greenhouse gases than coal or oil. This doesn’t mean it is environmentally friendly, the fact is that the use of natural gas in our environment is not safe as we still have to consider the issue of safety which is very paramount.

So, in this article, we will be looking at the environmental impacts of natural gas, both the positive and the negative impacts will be discussed here.

7 Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas

Below is the list of 7 environmental impacts of natural gas and we will discuss them one after the other.

  • Air Pollution
  • Water Pollution
  • Global warming
  • Land and wildlife
  • Earthquake
  • Acid Rain
  • Industrial and electric generation emissions

1. Air Pollution

This is one of the negative environmental impacts of natural gas. Industries that deal in natural gas have really increased globally, making it a threat to the environment because these industries emit inflammable organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. These chemicals happen to smoothen the formation of ground-level ozone, which escalates the vulnerability to respiratory infection and several lung diseases.

Air Pollution
Air Pollution (Source: The Daily Guardian)

The rate at which diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular, cancer, and respiratory has to increase. The outcome of pregnancy is very poor, and the development such as preterm birth, fetal death, and birth defects.

All this occurs as an effect of air pollution and our air is polluted by the chemicals released from industries that process this natural gas. The people that this gas has an impact on are mostly the ones that live close to this gas well or industries. A faster measure needs to be taken to ensure the safety of lives and the environment.

The researchers at UCLA discovered that the gas appliances that are in our homes such as clothes dryers, heaters, and stovetops make the quality of the indoor and outdoor air worse with pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter.

2. Water Pollution

This is one of the negative environmental impacts of natural gas. Most energy industries use a large quantity of fresh water for hydraulic fracturing of a well, sometimes in order to extract natural gas from the well they add chemicals to the water, inject it and drill deep underground which leads to decreasing the flow of drinking water and getting rid of the background water cycle of the earth.

After going through this process the water has been too polluted and it can’t be treated which ends up becoming wastewater. This threatens the sources of drinking water that are close. This wastewater from fracking can be toxic, corrosive, radioactive, and harmful to wildlife and humans.

According to  NRDC’s report “Fracking’s Wake” stated that almost 29 chemical additives in fracking water have been discovered to be very dangerous and should be a very big concern to our health. Some of these additives are cancer agents.

It has also become very obvious that state and federal regulations in most communities have not maintained the measurable rise in fracking and the method of scrutinizing groundwater pollution makes it almost impossible to trace its impact due to its difficulty. Tests are not conducted for the pollutants in fracking frequently in the laboratory.

3. Global warming emissions

These are also one of the negative environmental impacts of natural gas. Natural gas doesn’t release much carbon dioxide (CO2) it is less than 50 to 60 percent when it burns from a latest functional gas power plant like the emission from a new coal plant, there is a difference.

Natural gas is also referred to as fossil fuel the global warming emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel are less than that of oil and coal. In view of exhaust pipe emissions fossil fuel also releases about 15 to 20 percent lower heat-trapping compared to gasoline combustion in modern vehicles today.

Global warming emissions
Global warming emissions (Source: National Geographic)

Most times while drilling and bringing out fossil fuel from a well and transporting it in pipelines end up in the leakage primary component, like methane of fossil fuel which is very strong compared to CO2 at heat-trapping over 100 years and stronger over 20 years.

Studies and field measurement shows methane emissions is in the range of 1 to 9 percent of total life cycle emissions.

The rate of leakage will determine whether the fossil fuel has lesser life cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to oil and coal. The potential methane global warming over the variance in the time frame, the energy conversion regulation, and other factors.

it was discovered in a recent study that methane must be maintained below 3.2 percent so that natural gas power plants to lesser life cycle compared to new coal plants within a  little time duration of 20 years or lesser combustion of natural gas in vehicles is to bring out small benefits, the losses of methane must be maintained below 1 percent and 1.6 percent respectively than gasoline, diesel, and fuel. The presence of technologies in order to reduce the leakage of methane drastically should be considered.

4. Land and wildlife

This is one of the negative environmental impacts of natural gas. Natural gas alters land use for the construction and drilling of oil and gas by disturbing the land. this causes erosion, departure pattern, and the disintegration of wildlife animals, these destroy the ecosystem.

The sites that are cleared to be used to build a well, and road pipelines by oil and gas operators end up causing harmful pollutants into the streams that are close by, and erosion of dirt and minerals, these occur during the construction process.

A study of hydraulic fracturing impacts in Michigan found potential environmental impacts to be “significant” and include sedimentation, massively increased erosion, and magnify the risk of aquatic contamination from chemical spills or equipment runoff, habitat disintegration, and decrease in surface waters as a result of the threatening of groundwater levels.

5. Earthquakes

Natural gas can cause earthquakes, according to a study hydraulic fracturing on its own has been connected to low-magnitude groundbreaking activity less than 2-moment magnitude (M) (the moment magnitude scale now reinstates the Richter scale) but such light events are normally not able to be detectable at the surface.

The discarding of fracking wastewater by pushing it at high pressure into deep Class II injection wells, however, has been traced to more significant earthquakes in the United States.

Earthquakes
Earthquakes (Source: UC Riverside)

In the past decade in the united states, half of the more significant earthquakes that hit the United States happened in the regions of possible injection-induced groundbreaking. It will be stimulating to assign individual earthquakes to injection, in some cases supports come to the association via the location of the event and the time.

6. Acid Rain

Acid rain is one of the positive environmental impacts of natural gas. Its impact is more in the Eastern United States, which leads to destroying of forests, crops, and wildlife populations, and causes respiratory and other illnesses in humans.

Acid rain is formed by the reaction of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide react with water vapor and other chemicals in the presence of sunlight which forms various acidic compounds in the atmosphere.

Sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, are the major source that causes acid rain, they are coal-fired plants. Since natural gas emits effectively no sulfur dioxide and almost 80 percent fewer nitrogen oxides than the combustion of coal, increased use of natural gas could provide for fewer acid rain-causing emissions

7. Industrial and electric generation emissions

Natural gas is becoming a progressively essential fuel in power generation. As well as supplying an efficient, competitively priced fuel for the generation of electricity, the massive use of natural gas permits the enhancement in the emissions profile of the power generation industry.

According to the National Environmental Trust (NET) in their publication of 2002 entitled ‘Cleaning Up Air Pollution from America’s Power Plants,’ power plants in the U.S. account for 67 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, 25 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions, and 34 percent of mercury emissions.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest benefactor of these types of emissions. In fact, it is just 1 percent of mercury emissions, 2 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions, 3 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, and 5 percent of carbon dioxide emissions that originate from non-coal-fired power plants.

7 Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas – FAQ

Why is natural gas bad for the environment

Natural gas is bad for the environment because drilling activities produce air pollution and causes harm to wildlife, people and streams due the chemical that was released to the environment. Fixing pipelines that transport natural gas from wells normally requires clearing land to bury the pipe. Natural gas production can also produce large volumes of contaminated water

Conclusion

Extraction is the greatest threat to natural gas, it is the process of fracking that consumes a lot of water from water reserves and ends up polluting our surface water. This progress causes a lot of harm to the environment. It emits some gaseous substances such as methane and carbon dioxide into the air, though carbon dioxide emission is low. combustion of natural gas emits methane, which has negative impacts on human health.

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