VentMEDIC | Methane Emissions Detection and Integrated Controls | d-MRV

Natural Gas; A Phantom Threat

Natural gas garnered a reputation for being a cleaner fuel alternative to other fossil fuel energy sources. However, according to recent research, the methane within natural gas is up to 80 times more potent than CO2 on a short-term scale.

A common misconception around the world is that natural gas is a cleaner fuel alternative in comparison to other fossil fuels. In reality, the methane within natural gas is up to 80 times more potent than CO2 on a short-term scale. 

Natural gas is a fossil fuel formed from the remains of plants and animals and is made up of many different compounds, the largest being methane. Over hundreds of millions of years, these remains built up as thick layers on the earth’s surface and ocean floors. Over time, these layers conformed to the pressure and heat, changing the hydrocarbon-rich material into coal, oil and natural gas. Natural gas’ versatility means it can be used for heating buildings, cooking food and even creating plastics. 

For many years, natural gas was referred to as a “bridge fuel” which is being described as a temporary, and less harmful compound compared to the more popular fossil fuels, amidst finding a solution to the rising greenhouse gas emissions. Having a “bridge fuel” created a sense of ease for many political parties when it came to the pressing timeline of finding a logical and efficient renewable energy source, hence why it was marketed so heavily as a safer alternative.

“Very early on, this idea of natural gas being a bridge fuel came up because, from a CO2 perspective, that would be the least amount of carbon dioxide when you burn a BTU or an amount of gas compared to coal or oil. That is a very myopic look at this issue,” said Deborah Gordon, Senior Principal of the Climate Intelligence Program at RMI.

The video stated that burning natural gas generates half the CO2 emissions in comparison to burning coal, but that does not include the CO2 emissions produced through transport, processing and extracting. It also does not take into account another greenhouse gas; methane. 

“If you think about carbon dioxide being a blanket around the climate, when you compare that to methane over its decade-long lifetime, it will be the equivalent of 80 blankets on the climate,” Gordon states. She emphasized that even though it may not last in our atmosphere as long, the impact on our current climate is far greater.

The video also states that methane leaks throughout the process of producing natural gas, which means it may be false that it is cleaner than other fossil fuels but it may be more detrimental to the environment in our lifetime. In a recent study from Harvard, Duke, Nasa and RMI, it was found that emissions of methane from the gas supply chain were as low as 0.2%, and could be on par with coal. As evidence continues to grow, it is suspected that gas production today may leak much more than what the public was told.


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