# How Much CO2 Does Natural Gas Produce?

In 2019, the United States had 120.9 million households (EIA 2020a). Each home used an average of 11,880 kWh of provided power. In 2019, total household consumption of natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and fuel oil was 5.23 quadrillion Btu, 0.46 quadrillion Btu, and 0.45 quadrillion Btu, respectively (EIA 2020a). This equates to 41,510 cubic feet of natural gas, 42 gallons of liquefied petroleum gas, and 27 gallons of fuel oil per family in the United States.

In 2019, the national average carbon dioxide output rate for generated energy was 884.2 lbs CO2 per megawatt-hour (EPA 2021), equating to around 953.7 lbs CO2 per megawatt-hour for delivered electricity (assuming 7.3 percent transmission and distribution losses) (EPA 2021; EIA 2020b).

1

Natural gas has an average carbon dioxide coefficient of 0.0551 kg CO2 per cubic foot (EIA 2019). The total amount of CO2 oxidized is 100 percent (IPCC 2006).

Distillate fuel oil has an average carbon dioxide coefficient of 431.87 kg CO2 per 42-gallon barrel (EPA 2021). The total amount of CO2 oxidized is 100 percent (IPCC 2006).

Liquefied petroleum gases have an average carbon dioxide coefficient of 235.7 kg CO2 per 42-gallon barrel (EPA 2021). The oxidized percentage is 100 percent (IPCC 2006).

Total CO2 emissions per home were calculated by converting total residential electricity, natural gas, distillate fuel oil, and liquefied petroleum gas consumption from various units to metric tons of CO2.

### Calculation

Note that due to rounding, the results of the computations given in the equations below may not be correct.

1. Electricity: 11,880 kWh per home 884.2 lbs CO2 per megawatt-hour generated (1/(1-0.073)) MWh generated/MWh delivered 1 MWh/1,000 kWh = 5.139 metric tons CO2/home

2. Natural gas: 41,510 cubic feet per home = 2.29 metric tons CO2/home 0.0551 kg CO2/cubic foot 1/1,000 kg/metric ton

3. LPG: 42 gallons per home, 1/42 barrels per gallon, 235.7 kg CO2/barrel, 1/1,000 kg/metric ton = 0.23 metric tons CO2/home

4. Fuel oil: 27 gallons each home 1/42 barrels per gallon 431.87 kg CO2/barrel 1/1,000 kg/metric ton = 0.28 metric tons CO2/home

5.139 metric tons CO2 for electricity + 2.29 metric tons CO2 for natural gas + 0.23 metric tons CO2 for liquid petroleum gas + 0.29 metric tons CO2 for fuel oil = 7.94 metric tons CO2 per residence per year.

### Sources

• Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (2020a). Residential Sector Key Indicators and Consumption, Table A4 of the 2020 Annual Energy Outlook.
• Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (2020b). Table A8: Electricity Supply, Disposition, Prices, and Emissions in the 2020 Annual Energy Outlook.
• Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (2019). Table A4: Approximate Heat Content of Natural Gas for End-Use Sector Consumption, Monthly Energy Review November 2019. (PDF) (About PDF, 270 pages, 2.65 MB)
• Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2021). Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks in the United States, 1990-2019. Tables A-47 and A-53 in Annex 2 (Methodology for Estimating CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuel Combustion). Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency. #430-R-20-002 (PDF) (US EPA) (96 pp, 2 MB, About PDF)
• Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2021). eGRID, yearly national emission factor for the United States, data for 2019. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency.
• IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2006). The IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories were published in 2006. 2nd Edition (Energy). Geneva, Switzerland: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

## Is CO2 produced by natural gas?

• Natural gas combustion generates half the carbon dioxide of coal and 30% less than oil, as well as significantly less pollutants, per unit of energy delivered.
• Natural gas usage in the United States has climbed by about 41%, or 9 trillion cubic feet, since 2005. (Tcf). Nearly 90% of the increase is due to increased consumption of electric power (up 60%) and industrial sector use (up 28%).
• Natural gas is the most common fuel used to generate electricity in the United States. Its substitute for coal has aided in lowering power sector emissions to levels seen in the mid-1980s.
• However, emissions from natural gas burning (in all sectors) have increased by about 43%, or 505 million metric tons, since 2005.
• The United States is the world’s largest natural gas producer, exporting 1.8 Tcf of LNG in 2019, which can assist reduce or eliminate coal-based power generation in other regions of the world.
• To fully exploit natural gas’s potential climatic advantages, technology and regulations to reduce methane leakage from natural gas extraction, gathering and processing, transmission and distribution, and LNG shipping must be implemented.
• Furthermore, natural gas facilities (both new and existing) will need to deploy carbon capture, utilization, and storage capabilities (or related sequestration-based offsets) by a particular date in order to meet mid-century net-zero climate goals.

## Is it true that natural gas emits less CO2?

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, although its global warming emissions are substantially lower than those from coal or oil combustion.

When combusted in a modern, efficient natural gas power plant, natural gas produces 50 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) than emissions from a typical new coal plant. When comparing simply tailpipe emissions, natural gas releases 15 to 20% fewer heat-trapping gases than gasoline in today’s typical vehicle.

Natural gas leakage occurs as a result of the drilling and extraction of natural gas from wells, as well as its transmission through pipelines. Methane, the principal component of natural gas, is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a 100-year period and 86 times stronger over 20 years. According to preliminary studies and field measurements, these “fugitive” methane emissions account for 1 to 9% of overall life cycle emissions.

The anticipated leakage rate, the global warming potential of methane over different time periods, the energy conversion efficiency, and other considerations all have a role in whether natural gas has lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than coal and oil. According to a recent study, natural gas power stations must have methane losses of less than 3.2 percent to have lower life cycle emissions than new coal plants for short time periods of 20 years or less. And, in order for natural gas to provide even marginal benefits in vehicles, methane losses must be reduced below 1% and 1.6 percent, respectively, as compared to diesel fuel and gasoline. Although technologies exist to decrease much of the leaking methane, implementing them would necessitate new regulations and investments.

## Which fuel emits the most CO2?

We already know that the world’s carbon budget is depleting at an alarming rate, but a new scientific assessment exposes just how grim the global carbon cycle really is.

According to the Global Carbon Project’s (GCP) 2013 study, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels and making cement have reached their greatest level in human history at precisely the time when emissions reductions are most needed.

The GCP is a collaborative effort between the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change, the World Climate Research Programme, and Diversitas, with all datasets and modeling output described in peer-reviewed journals. The following are some of the highlights from the GCP summary:

### What are the current global CO2 emissions levels and concentrations?

CO2 emissions related with burning fossil fuels and making cement increased by 2.1 percent in 2012, with a similar increase projected in 2013.

CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and manufacturing cement increased by 58 percent in 2012, compared to 1990 levels.

In 2012, the average global CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were 392.5 parts per million (ppm). This is the most concentrated population in at least 800,000 years. Global atmospheric CO2 concentrations briefly exceeded 400 ppm earlier this year, but this was not mentioned in the GCP report.

In 2012, around 9.7 billion tonnes of carbon were released into the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels and making cement. This is the same amount of carbon dioxide emitted by almost 10,000 coal-fired power units.

Between 1870 and 2013, approximately 390 billion tonnes of carbon were discharged into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and making cement.

Between 1870 and 2013, approximately 160 billion tonnes of carbon were emitted into the atmosphere as a result of land use change (e.g. deforestation).

Between 1870 and 2013, all human activities emitted approximately 550 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, meaning fossil fuels and cement contributed more than two-thirds of all carbon emissions.

### What fuels and sectors are creating the world’s emissions?

During the period 2003-2012, the average share of total CO2 emissions caused by human activities that were connected with deforestation and other land use changes was 8%. In fact, according to a new scientific study, the world loses the equivalent of 50 soccer fields of forest every minute of every day.

Oil accounted for 33% of all CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production in 2012.

Coal accounted for 43 percent of total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production in 2012. Despite producing the greatest CO2 emissions of any fossil fuel, coal continues to be the world’s primary energy source.

### Who is generating the world’s emissions?

In 2012, India’s per capita carbon emissions were 0.5 tonnes. In 2012, India accounted for 6% of world CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, and its emissions climbed 7.7% over 2011.

Carbon emissions per capita in China in 2012 were 1.9 tonnes. In 2012, China was responsible for 27% of worldwide CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, up 5.9% from 2011.

Carbon emissions per capita in the European Union in 2012 were 1.9 tonnes. In 2012, the EU accounted for 10% of worldwide CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, with emissions down 1.3 percent from 2011.

Carbon emissions per capita in the United States in 2012 were 4.4 tonnes. In 2012, the United States accounted for 14 percent of world CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, a drop of 3.7 percent from 2011.

### How much global warming can these emissions cause?

While each of the figures in GCP’s 2013 report is significant in its own way, one in particular stands out: By 2100, the world will have warmed by 3.2-5.4C above pre-industrial levels due to our cumulative carbon dioxide emissions. We fear increasingly deadly levels of forest fires, coral bleaching, sea level rise, and other significant impacts with each degree of temperature rise.

According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if we continue on our current carbon-intensive path, we will exhaust our carbon budget in around 30 years. Once again, we’re reminded that the window for reducing emissions is rapidly closing. It serves as a timely reminder of the high stakes for international negotiators at COP 19.

• GET MORE INFORMATION: Unrestricted coal use will break the world’s “carbon budget,” according to a WRI blog post.

## Is natural gas environmentally friendly?

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, although it is more efficient and cleaner than other traditional fuels.

According to the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, natural gas creates less pollution and greenhouse emissions than its rivals. Natural gas, for example, emits 45 percent less CO2 than coal, 30 percent less than oil, and 15 percent less than wood when burned. It creates heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide upon combustion.

Natural gas is both affordable and plentiful, with Alberta producing 67 percent of Canada’s natural gas, according to the province’s energy ministry. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fueland many consider it to be a critical ingredient as the world transitions to a cleaner future. It isn’t as clean as wind or solar electricity, but it is the cleanest fossil fuel.

The majority of natural gas utilized in the United States is produced domestically, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Natural gas-powered appliances, cars, and power plants, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), are extremely efficient. Natural gas is a cleaner energy choice because of its great efficiency.

## What is the CO2 content of a m3 of natural gas?

Natural gas has a CO2 emission factor of 0.056 kg CO2eq/MJ energy equivalent. Because natural gas has a greater heating value of 38-39 MJ/m3, the CO2 emission factor would be around 2.2 kg CO2eq per m3 of natural gas.

## Is natural gas in any way inferior to electricity?

Another advantageous feature of electricity is that it can be utilized for both heating and air conditioning. Heat pumps, which are powered by electricity, can provide both heating and cooling in one unit! Because all air conditioners operate on electricity, no other fuel source can offer this.

Many people believe that electric heating is expensive and ineffective, yet there are now several very efficient choices available. High-efficiency heat pump models are currently among of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to heat a home, arguing strongly for the use of electricity in home heating.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, plants converting fossil fuels to electricity generated around 67 percent of the country’s electricity in 2015. Coal, natural gas, and petroleum are examples of this. Coal accounted for 33% of the total. When both the mining and combustion processes are considered, coal is the most damaging of all fossil fuels, according to Green Peace.

Before doing research for this post, I assumed that nuclear and hydroelectric power would provide the majority of the electricity in the northwest. That is not the case, however. In 2015, coal accounted for 35% of Puget Sound Energy’s electricity, with natural gas accounting for another 24%. This means that fossil fuels accounted for at least 59 percent of PSE’s electricity. In terms of fossil fuels, the fuel mix for Seattle people looks a lot better. In 2014, fossil fuels provided less than 2% of Seattle City Light’s electricity. The great majority of the energy came from hydropower. Hydro does not require the combustion of fossil fuels, hence it is considerably better for the environment in terms of emissions. Hydro, on the other hand, is not considered a renewable energy source because it has its own set of environmental consequences. Dams can harm fish by obstructing their movement and reproduction. Dams also alter the ecology around the dammed river on a big scale.

Heat pumps, unfortunately, have an environmental cost, although a little one. The heat pump manufacturing process, like any other product, produces certain harmful emissions. Heat pumps use refrigerant, which can be hazardous to the environment if it leaks. Despite these drawbacks, converting to a heat pump is now one of the most effective strategies to lower your carbon footprint without sacrificing heat in your house! All heat pumps, in addition to providing heat, also provide air conditioning.

Conversion costs are one of the most significant disadvantages of switching from one heating fuel to another in a residence. To convert a residence from another fuel source to gas, the gas utility (in the Seattle area, Puget Sound Energy) must first supply gas service to the home. This comes at a variety of prices, ranging from free to thousands of dollars. Following the installation of the gas service, gas must be routed from the gas meter to the furnace position inside the residence, which adds to the cost. Many residences in Washington state, fortunately, already have gas service. According to the NEEA, gas is used in 48 percent of Washington residences in 2012. Gas is a terrific alternative for people who already have it.

Natural gas is one of the cleanest-burning fossil fuels accessible, making it a viable alternative to other fossil fuels such as heating oil as a fuel source. If you have no other choice but to heat your home with fossil fuels, natural gas is definitely the best alternative.

Natural gas furnaces are a clear victor when compared to electric resistance equipment. The cost of heating a home with a natural gas furnace is significantly less than the cost of heating a home with an electric resistance furnace. Even the most inefficient gas furnace (80% FUE) costs less to run than the most efficient electric furnace. Natural gas is now better for the environment than electric resistive heating, given that a large percentage of our electricity is derived from “dirty” sources.

Another advantage of natural gas is that there is still plenty of it available. As a result, natural gas could be a viable stepping stone between where we are currently and the ultimate aim of 100% renewable electricity generation. We still have enough natural gas to sustain us several decades as a society, providing us time to create better and better renewable energy sources.

Methane and other hydrocarbons make up the majority of natural gas. When the leftovers of plant and animal matter are exposed to high pressures beneath the Earth’s surface, it forms naturally underground. It must be extracted because it occurs naturally beneath the Earth’s surface. Much of the gas is lost to the atmosphere during the extraction process. Methane is a greenhouse gas, which means it contributes to global warming and has a detrimental impact on our ecosystem. Indeed, according to a 2015 research by the Environmental Defense Fund, natural gas discharged during extraction may nullify much of its clean-burning advantage over other fossil fuels. For more information, see this Guardian article.

Fracking, one of the more recent methods of natural gas extraction, has a number of harmful effects on the environment. Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is the practice of forcing open existing cracks in rock and extracting the natural gas stored within by injecting liquid at high pressure into rocks and holes beneath the earth. Some methane gas is released, as is the case with other extraction processes, contributing to global warming and hurting the environment. The contamination of groundwater is one potential serious issue with fracking. Many research have been conducted on this subject, with various results. Radiation was found in hydraulic fracturing wastewater dumped into Pennsylvania rivers, according to the New York Times.

Natural gas transportation has an environmental impact as well. Pipelines crisscross the country, transporting much of the natural gas extracted in the United States and elsewhere. These pipelines have their own environmental consequences. As previously said, natural gas leakage is harmful to the environment. According to Steve Hamburg, the head scientist of the Environmental Defense Fund, 2 to 2.5 percent of the gas in America’s pipelines seeps into the environment. Pipelines also cause habitat loss and fragmentation, which affects animal movement and migration and can limit reproduction to smaller, isolated populations for some species. Trucks and rail, which, of course, utilize fossil fuels, are also used to deliver natural gas.

Aside from the environmental impact, natural gas appliances in the home also pose a safety risk. When natural gas is burned, carbon monoxide gas is produced, which is transparent and odorless yet lethal if inhaled in large enough volumes. Gas furnaces are totally safe to have in a home as long as they are working correctly. However, if a gas furnace is not properly maintained and examined by a skilled expert on a regular basis (at least once a year), it can malfunction and leak carbon monoxide into the home, which can be fatal. To prevent this from happening, municipalities across the country have enacted severe safety laws, including requiring the installation of working carbon monoxide alarms in houses with gas appliances. If you have a gas furnace, it’s critical that you follow certain safety regulations and suggestions. In the United States, the number of people who have died as a result of a furnace malfunction is quite minimal. Between 1999 and 2010, there were 5,149 unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in the United States, or an average of 430 per year, a low number when compared to the country’s 300 million people.

Natural gas is frequently regarded as a good bridge fuel between more destructive fossil fuels like oil and petroleum and the eventual transition to sustainable, renewable energy sources. According to Christina Nunez of National Geographic, one school of thinking holds that the enormous residual supply and improved mining techniques may actually be a major problem. Indeed, according to this viewpoint, the abundant availability of natural gas may cause a decades-long delay in the transition to renewable fuel sources, ultimately harming the environment. Nunez believes that if natural gas were not an option, we would be obliged to develop renewable energy far sooner, despite the fact that natural gas is much cleaner than other fossil fuels currently in use.

Because of the massive use of dirty fossil fuels in power generation, there isn’t much of a difference in terms of environmental impact between using natural gas and electricity for house heating. The key thing is to raise your home’s heating efficiency as much as possible, not just for the environment but also for your cash account. There are several ways to save money on heating, whether you use natural gas or electricity. This includes upgrading to high-efficiency appliances, as well as ensuring that your home is properly insulated and purchasing high-quality windows and doors. The best way you can help as an individual until our society transitions to more renewable energy sources is to consume as little energy as possible!