Natural gas has gained widespread popularity during the past few decades. There are pros and cons of natural gas when compared to traditional fuel sources. More than half of what we produce is natural gas. Gas is in greater demand on a global scale. We anticipate it to rise from its 2014 level by 40% by 2030.
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What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is the least harmful, colorless, odorless, and low-carbon hydrocarbon. It is incredibly flammable but non-toxic. A fossil fuel that developed deep within the earth’s crust is natural gas. Numerous distinct chemicals can be found in natural gas.
Methane, which is a molecule with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, makes up the majority of natural gas (CH4). In lower levels, natural gas also contains non-hydrocarbon gases including carbon dioxide and water vapor as well as natural gas liquids (NGLs), which are also hydrocarbon gas liquids.
It warms food for cooking and heating, and it fuels power plants that supply homes and businesses with energy. It is a source of energy for heating, electricity, and automobile fuel.
Natural gas is used as a fuel, to create materials, and to create chemicals. It serves as a fuel for numerous industrial processes that make everything from glass to textiles, and it is a critical component of items like paints and plastics.
How is Natural gas Formed and Collected?
The remains of plants and animals (such as diatoms) piled up in thick layers on the earth’s surface and the ocean floors over a long period, occasionally mixed with sand, silt, and calcium carbonate.
These layers were eventually covered by rock, sand, and silt. This substance was rich in hydrogen and carbon, and pressure and heat transformed some of it into coal, some into petroleum, and some into natural gas.
A well bored into a subsurface rock formation is used to recover natural gas from certain formations. Natural gas is abundantly present in specific types of rock formations on the earth, thus professionals search for these features when harvesting natural gas.
Experts employ gravitational pulls and techniques for detecting sound waves to find abundant natural gas deposits.
Once the location is found, specialists drill wells all around the area for a depth of around 6,000 feet and then use pipes to retrieve the gas. The gas is then treated and made ready for usage at power plants after it is extracted.
Low-permeability deposits, including shale, have recently been used to produce an increasing amount of domestic natural gas.
Hydraulic fracturing, sometimes known as “fracking,” technology is used to enhance permeability and make it possible to collect natural gas from these tight rocks.
To guarantee that natural gas extraction does not compromise environmental and public health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collaborates with the natural gas sector.
After being extracted, the gas is separated from free liquids such as water, entrained particles, hydrocarbon condensate, and crude oil. The separated gas is then treated once more to fulfill the necessary conditions.
For instance, natural gas must satisfy particular pipeline quality requirements about water content, hydrocarbon dew point, heating value, and hydrogen sulfide concentration for transmission firms.
In this article, the pros and cons of natural gas are examined in detail.
Pros and Cons of Natural Gas
Certainly, natural gas has pros and cons and it’s necessary that we consider these qualities to ensure climate and environmental sustainability.
Pros of Natural Gas
Natural gas has many advantages over traditional fuel sources, which is why many people use it. These advantages include
1. Advanced Technology
Over many years, natural gas has played a significant role as an energy source. As a result, it can be said to be an advanced technology that has undergone extensive optimization.
It can be said to be one of the most well-established power sources that humanity is aware of on a worldwide scale as a result of this optimization and maturation process.
2. A Major Global Source of Energy
The usage of natural gas for energy and heating has grown rather common over time because it can be extracted and used in many nations throughout the world.
In today’s global civilization, the majority of nations rely on coal, oil, or gas as their main energy sources to supply their domestic population’s energy needs.
3. Relatively Safe
It is possible to consider the technology and use of natural gas in the energy generation process to be relatively safe. Natural gas consumption has not resulted in a lot of fatalities, even though there have been a few incidences over time.
Natural gas can be viewed as relatively safe in comparison to nuclear power plant accidents, which could result in enormous sections of land becoming contaminated with radioactive pollutants and thousands of people passing away as a result.
Natural gas can also be thought of as a rather dependable power source due to its maturity and general acceptance across numerous industries.
There haven’t been many issues with the natural gas supply chain over time, and there are no indications that this will change very soon.
5. Not influenced by the Weather
Natural gas also has the benefit of not being affected by the outside weather when producing electricity. Energy production with natural gas does not require sunshine or wind to function, in contrast to alternative energies like wind or solar energy.
As a result, natural gas is a rather reliable power source that might be utilized in conjunction with alternative energy sources until humans can produce enough energy using only these sources.
6. An Abundant Source of Energy
Even though natural gas is a limited resource, there is still a lot of it available, and it could be decades or even centuries before it runs out completely.
Natural gas will thus remain a significant energy source shortly until mankind can completely replace fossil fuels with renewable ones.
7. Cleaner than other Fossil Fuels
Natural gas use involves significant greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, but it is seen as less hazardous than using other fossil fuels like coal or oil.
To reduce your ecological footprint, choose natural gas rather than coal or oil if you still want to use fossil fuels for heating or energy. However, switching to green energies would be preferable.
8. Less harmful waste by-products than other Fossil Fuels
Natural gas utilization does not result in the formation of toxic byproducts, unlike the burning of other fossil fuels like coal.
Therefore, when compared to other fossil fuels, natural gas can be thought of as being more environmentally friendly, both in terms of waste management and the creation of hazardous waste.
9. Many Nations have access to Natural Gas.
Natural gas is a very common energy source because it can be found in many nations throughout the world. Because of their slower technological development, poor emerging nations may find it more difficult to get natural gas, but whenever such nations are more developed, there will still be plenty of natural gas deposits available.
10. Existing Optimized Infrastructure around Gas
Since natural gas has been a main source of energy for many years, a sizable and well-developed infrastructure has developed around it. This involves efficient mining, transportation, processing, and energy production.
Natural gas serves as the main energy source for numerous businesses and whole industries, making it essential to safeguard our industrial energy supply in the near term.
11. Efficient Source of Energy
When compared to the majority of other fuels, using natural gas can also be thought of as being extremely efficient. Natural gas will therefore continue to play a significant role for many years until the energy transition process is complete, even though it has many issues.
12. Maybe put to a wide range of Diverse Uses
Natural gas is highly flexible and versatile because it may be utilized for many different devices in addition to energy production and heating systems, including agricultural processes. Natural gas is therefore widely used in industrial activities as well as in homes.
13. Less Expensive than other Fossil Fuels
Natural gas is frequently substantially less expensive in terms of the cost per unit of energy produced than energy generation using oil. Thus, switching from oil to gas heating may make sense from both an environmental and an economic standpoint.
To reduce your ecological footprint, switching to renewable energies like solar electricity would be preferable.
14. Job Stability
The gas industry currently employs a large number of people. Natural gas must remain a significant energy source in the future to maintain or perhaps increase employment in this sector.
It should be noted that, with the right training, gas industry employees might also be able to find employment in the renewable energy sector.
As a result, maintaining this technology should only be justified by the security of jobs in the natural gas industry.
15. A Crucial Addition to the Energy Transition Process
Natural gas is still very crucial as a supplement in the transition from fossil to renewable energies to secure the energy supply of millions of people worldwide, even though its future may not be particularly promising in the long run.
16. Better Transportation and Storage than Renewable Energy
Compared to sustainable energy, transportation is substantially more efficient across vast distances (less network loss). We cannot properly store renewable energy, which is one of their main drawbacks.
Cons of Natural Gas
Natural gas provides a lot of benefits, but it also comes with a lot of drawbacks.
1. Emissions of Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming
The amount of greenhouse gas emissions is still substantially larger than with much alternative energy, even though it is lower than with other fossil fuels like coal or oil.
Since natural gas consumption as a primary energy source contributes to global warming, we as a global civilization should reduce it to slow the rise in air and ocean temperatures.
2. Natural Gas as a Non-Renewable Resource
As a non-renewable resource with a limited supply, gas can also be regarded as such because it typically takes millions of years for natural gas to originate.
Therefore, even if there is still a lot of natural gas available now, humanity will eventually run out of this resource.
When this day comes, if we haven’t switched to renewable energy sources already, we could face significant problems with our energy supply.
Fortunately, nations around the world have made substantial efforts to make the switch to renewable energy sources.
Accordingly, it is predicted that in a few decades, we will be able to cover most of our energy needs by using renewable resources, and natural gas will no longer be as important as a primary power source.
3. Air Pollution
As a result of the gas combustion process used to generate electricity, a sizable amount of poisonous gases and other pollutants are released into the atmosphere.
As a result, those who live in areas with poor air quality and large amounts of pollutants may experience major health problems.
4. Acid Rain
The production of acid rain is also implied by the discharge of hazardous gases. Depending on the intensity of the emissions, acid rain may cause significant environmental problems in a given area.
For instance, because plants are typically extremely sensitive to soil acidity levels, acid rain may dramatically reduce crop yields, which may result in extreme levels of poverty and malnutrition, especially in underdeveloped nations where the local population depends on crop harvests as a source of food.
5. Ozone Depletion
The ozone layer’s depletion may also be caused by elements in the emissions from the generation of natural gas energy.
The ozone layer shields not just ourselves from harmful radiation, but also our flora and animals. If this layer disappears, severe illnesses like cancer may start to appear more frequently.
6. Destruction of Habitats through Mining
Since many species may lose their current habitat and may need to move, this might ultimately result in major habitat degradation. There may be a mass extinction of plants in the impacted areas.
Natural gas extraction includes the destruction of natural environments through human interference, which also means a large loss of biodiversity. Many plants could see a drastic decline in population if they are unable to adjust to these new circumstances. In addition, as many creatures would lose their native habitats, they might become extinct or become endangered.
8. Earthquakes could Result from Gas Fracking
Fracking in the context of natural gas extraction is thought to have the potential to create earthquakes, though this has not yet been verified. Therefore, the extraction of natural gas may indirectly result in the deaths of numerous people and may also destroy significant infrastructure.
9. Fracking causes Water and Soil Pollution
Our environment is thought to be seriously harmed by the fracking process. This method’s detractors frequently bring up the possibility of significant pollution as a drawback.
The fracking process uses a lot of chemicals, which can seriously pollute the water and soil. This harms the local flora and wildlife, and it also has the potential to contaminate our groundwater.
10. Reliance on other Nations
Countries that don’t have many natural gas reserves may rely on other nations to provide them with enough natural gas.
However, this economic dependence frequently also implies a political dependence, which frequently has quite unpleasant results for the nation that depends on a certain source of income.
Therefore, by switching to renewable alternative fuels, nations could reduce their reliance on other nations and thereby strengthen their political freedom.
11. Dependence on World Market Prices for Gas
The reliance on fossil fuels, such as natural gas, implies reliance on the prices of those resources on the global market.
Therefore, if gas prices rise sharply on the global market, nations that still use natural gas as their main energy source may face major difficulties.
Therefore, switching from fossil to renewable energies may be a wise move in both a political and economic sense.
12. Gas Transportation could be Hazardous
There can also be problems with how natural gas is transported. Since gas is extremely combustible, transportation mishaps could result in large explosions that cause numerous injuries or even fatalities.
13. Initial Pipeline Construction Costs are Relatively High
Despite the relatively cheap unit cost of energy produced by gas, the initial costs of building gas pipes can be fairly significant. As a result, the total expenses associated with the production and distribution chain may be far higher than what most people would anticipate.
14. High Upfront Expenses for Homeowners
Additionally, the initial installation expenditures for households associated with natural gas heating could be substantial. A natural gas heating system might cost up to 30,000 USD to buy and install.
Therefore, as natural gas may become less important in the long run, it could be better to spend this money on green energy alternatives like solar power.
15. Leaks are Hard to Detect
Leaks in natural gas are extremely difficult to find because it has no smell and is invisible. As a result, the majority of leaks are not discovered until after the explosions have already happened. Due to this, natural gas can be highly harmful, especially to those who are inexperienced in using it.
Even though there aren’t many mishaps involving the use of gas for heating or energy generation, some fatalities do occur as a result of those events each year.
Therefore, switching from unsafe technologies like gas to safer ones like solar power would not only be good for the environment but might also raise your level of general safety.
17. There is not much room for Improvement
The technologies associated with natural gas are quite developed and only have limited opportunity for efficiency improvements, in contrast to much other energy which still has a significant potential for technological developments.
As a result, natural gas may eventually become less significant as other alternative energies become more efficient.
18. Methane Leaks
Natural gas is available worldwide and is simple to transfer. At every stage of the supply chain, these processes nevertheless release methane, a strong greenhouse gas. Methane has 28 to 34 times more potential to cause global warming than carbon dioxide.
Because methane leaks are difficult to prevent, natural gas is a dirtier energy source than first assumed. This emphasizes natural gas’ status as a fossil fuel even more, along with the fact that it is a greenhouse gas.
19. Sourcing Natural Gas
Natural gas can be extracted in several ways, but fracking is one of the most popular. To bring a subterranean gas deposit closer to the surface, fracking entails injecting water into the deposit. It has been connected to numerous serious health problems, environmental harm, and significant gas leaks.
Fracking accounts for 67% of gas sources in the US. Fracking continues to be a viable and affordable source of energy, even while new initiatives emphasize a shift toward a more sustainable extraction method.
20. Affordably Pricey Storage
Natural gas has one significant storage drawback despite being easier to transport and store than other fossil fuels. Its volume is four times greater than that of gasoline. Because greater storage space is required as a result, natural gas storage is significantly more expensive.
21. Expensive Pipelines
Pipelines are necessary for the transport of natural gas as well as other uses. It is carried over great distances using pricey pipes protected by pricey equipment, and each pipeline leak results in increased operating costs.
The fundamental problem with pipelines is that they are excessively costly and difficult to maintain. This is because they have to be installed underground. Regular checks must be made for leakage and theft. Specialized, expensive tanks are needed for the land and maritime transportation of natural gas.
22. Lengthy Processing Time
Natural gas must be processed because it contains additional components that must be removed before it can be used for home or commercial uses. This procedure adds to the difficulty and expense of producing natural gas.
23. Contains some Impure Elements
The biomethane-derived natural gas still has pollutants in it after compression and purification. If the produced biofuel were used to power vehicles, It may corrode the engine’s metal components. The expense of maintenance would rise as a result of this corrosion. For water boilers, lights, and cooking burners, the gaseous mixture is far more suitable.
24. Can Be Difficult to Harness
All of the components of natural gas—aside from methane—must be removed to use it. This produces several byproducts, including sulfur, water vapor, carbon dioxide, helium, and even hydrocarbons (ethane, propane, etc.).
25. Increase in Violence and Terrorism
In some places, like the middle east and several African nations, natural gas is drilled. By destroying this energy supply, colonial nations contribute to conflict and an increase in terrorism, while the money goes to despots who use this fuel to acquire trillions of dollars.
26. For Dense Metropolitan Areas, it’s Less Suitable
Natural gas has the drawback that industrial biogas facilities are only practical in areas with abundant raw materials (food waste, manure). Because of this, rural and suburban regions are significantly more suited for the natural gas produced from biomethane.
The most significant energy source available today is natural gas. Natural gas is the ideal energy source if we want something affordable and dependable. But in the long run, there are better options than natural gas if we want to employ a renewable energy source that will never run out.
42 Pros and Cons of Natural Gas – FAQs
Is natural gas clean energy?
Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, although it isn't as clean as wind or solar electricity. Many people believe that natural gas will play a significant role in the transition to a greener future.
What is the major environmental benefit of natural gas?
A fossil fuel that burns reasonably cleanly is natural gas. When burning natural gas for energy, less carbon dioxide (CO2) and almost all other air pollutants are released into the atmosphere compared to when burning coal or petroleum products for the same amount of energy.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.