The National Energy Technology Laboratory says that large natural gas deposits in the U.S. can be used for cost-effective, very low carbon electric-power generation, with the biggest environmental impacts coming primarily from burning the gas rather than producing it. “(P)roperly engineered and implemented natural-gas systems,” NETL says, “have favorable environmental and cost profiles in comparison to other energy sources."
In a report "Role of Alternative Energy Sources: Natural Gas Power Technology Assessment," NETL analyzes various gas-fired electricity generation technologies on a life cycle basis to evaluate their environmental characteristics. The NETL study looked at greenhouse gas and other air emissions; water withdrawal, discharge, and quality; and land use change in making its assessment.
NETL’s analysis confirmed once again that greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas-fired electricity generation are less than half of those of coal-fired power plants on a system-wide average. More importantly, NETL's analysis of the cost of equipping gas-fired plants with carbon capture and storage technology shows that costs are coming down. CCS-equipped gas generation offers the opportunity to vastly lower the greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation at manageable costs.
This potential must, in my view, be deployed now to save off a disastrous rise in global temperatures. NETL's study should urgently propel the policy discussion around deploying CCS-equipped gas generation.