What Are The Byproducts Of Natural Gas?

Natural gas accounts for over a quarter of our energy consumption in the United States. It’s primarily utilized in households to power heating and cooking equipment. It can, however, be used to power cars instead of petroleum. Natural gas burning produces only carbon dioxide and water vapor as byproducts, making it a very clean fuel when compared to coal and petroleum, which produce more carbon dioxide and other toxic byproducts.

What is generated when natural gas is burned?

Natural gas’ qualities combine to make it the safest, cleanest, and most ecologically friendly energy source for the twenty-first century.

  • A combination of numerous light hydrocarbons and other gases that occurs spontaneously. Methane, which is made up of one part carbon and four parts hydrogen, is the main component of natural gas (CH4).
  • Non-corrosive and lighter than air.
  • In its natural state, it is odorless and colorless.
  • As a result, a stench similar to rotten eggs is added to Natural Gas for safety concerns, allowing leaks to be detected and rectified.
  • At any temperature above -260 degrees Fahrenheit, it becomes gaseous.
  • It is non-toxic and does not contain any hazardous elements, yet it can displace oxygen in enclosed places if used in excessive quantities.
  • Methane burns cleanly and produces little pollutants when burned.
  • Carbon dioxide and water vapor are the primary by-products of natural gas burning when done correctly.
  • Natural gas creates less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than any other fossil fuel because methane has just one carbon atom.
  • It’s safer to use than most other fuels.
  • Natural gas does not burn on its own. Only a correct mixture of gas and air, with a flammability range of around 5 to 15 percent natural gas and 95 to 85 percent air, can cause combustion. Even with the right mixture, a high ignition temperature of around 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit is required.
  • Because it is a potent greenhouse gas, burning it and creating carbon dioxide is preferable to releasing it into the atmosphere.

Natural Gas is the safest energy source available because of all of these qualities. It is even safer if you understand and implement proper safety procedures.

What are the reasons why natural gas is hazardous for the environment?

Every extraction of fossil fuels is harmful to the environment and increases our economic footprint. So, if you’re wondering, “The answer is yes, natural gas is worse for the environment than solar power. However, if we inquire, “Is natural gas the most environmentally benign fossil fuel? The answer is yes.

Fracking, which uses a lot of water from local water reservoirs and pollutes streams, is the most serious concern from natural gas extraction. Furthermore, this process emits methane into the atmosphere. While carbon dioxide emissions are low, natural gas combustion also emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas that seeps into the atmosphere in large quantities.

Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur dioxide are all released when natural gas is burned (SO2). It’s also hazardous if it’s not transported or extracted properly. If natural gas is not transported properly, it can result in an explosion. Natural gas has a storage problem: its volume necessitates larger storage facilities, which are more expensive to operate.

The fact that it is not renewable is a significant disadvantage. According to Worldometers, natural gas reserves are only available for 52 years. If you never want to run out of energy, you must consider alternative energy sources to natural gas.

However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that natural gas has a larger and more geographically distributed resource base than oil, making it a more reliable source of energy.

Is it hazardous for the ecology to use natural gas?

Natural gas combustion produces less sulfur, mercury, and particulates than other fossil fuels, making it a cleaner alternative. Natural gas combustion does produce nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are precursors to smog, albeit at lower quantities than gasoline and diesel. According to DOE estimates, every 10,000 U.S. houses that use natural gas instead of coal emit 1,900 tons of NOx, 3,900 tons of SO2, and 5,200 tons of particulates per year. Reductions in these emissions promote public health because these pollutants have been connected to hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering from asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, and heart disease.

Despite these advantages, unconventional gas development can have a negative impact on local and regional air quality. Particulate matter and ozone plus its precursors, two of the six “criteria pollutants” regulated by the EPA because of their negative effects on health and the environment, have increased in quantities in some locations where drilling occurs. High amounts of these air pollutants can cause a variety of health problems, including respiratory discomfort, cardiovascular illness, and cancer. Residents living less than half a mile from unconventional gas well sites were shown to be at higher risk of health consequences from natural gas development air pollution than those living farther away, according to a recent study.

Is natural gas an oil byproduct?

Natural gas moved into enormous fractures and crevices between layers of overlaying rock in some places. Conventional natural gas refers to the natural gas found in these sorts of deposits. Natural gas can also be found in the microscopic pores (spaces) within certain shale, sandstone, and other sedimentary rock formations. This type of natural gas is known as shale gas or tight gas, and it’s also known as unconventional natural gas. Natural gas is also found in conjunction with crude oil deposits, and this natural gas is referred to as related natural gas. Natural gas resources can be found on land, offshore, and even deep beneath the ocean floor. Coalbed methane is a form of natural gas found in coal beds.

Is natural gas a petroleum byproduct?

Petroleum products are fuels manufactured from crude oil and natural gas hydrocarbons. Coal, natural gas, and biomass can all be used to make petroleum products.

Is diesel a byproduct that produces gas?

Diesel fuel is manufactured from a hydrocarbon mixture that is produced as a byproduct of crude oil distillation. It has a higher density than gas. Diesel has a greater boiling point than water, which means it has a very low evaporation point. In comparison, regular gas can evaporate at ambient temperature.

Diesel fuel is combustible, which means it needs compression and heat to function. Regular unleaded gas, on the other hand, is classified as a flammable liquid, which necessitates the use of a spark. A lit match, for example, will extinguish diesel fuel, whereas a lit match will ignite gasoline fumes before it even reaches the liquid.

Another distinction between diesel fuel and ordinary gas is the sulfur content of regular gas. C14H30 is the chemical formula for diesel. While the additional atoms make a significant difference during burning, they also result in increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Is natural gas as harmful as coal in terms of pollution?

Scientists are getting a clearer sense of how natural gas compares to coal and whether it is genuinely the cleaner fuel as satellites offer more accurate data on methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

Researchers are working to better understand when methane leaks in the gas chain counteract the climate benefits of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation.

“The key breakthrough,” Yasjka Meijer, a scientist with the European Space Agency’s Copernicus program, said, “is that we’re starting to be able to put figures to it.” Meijer compared the carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants to the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production and combustion.

For the first 20 years, methane, the major component of natural gas, has more than 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide, an influence that matters in climate planning scenarios at all levels, from utilities to nations.

Scientists warn that study into current methane emissions is still in its early phases, stressing that it’s unclear which sources are causing the rapid buildup of methane in the atmosphere. Accidental blowouts from oil and gas wells, as well as coal mine discharges, are likely important causes.

However, assessments from a growing fleet of satellites circling the Earth over the last several years have revealed that some typically operating facilities are releasing substantially more of the climate-warming gas than official greenhouse gas inventories suggest.

“We’re able to narrow it down to specific sources, and we’ve seen quantification in some situations,” Meijer added.

According to Meijer, if 3% to 4% of natural gas generated at oil and gas wells leaks into the atmosphere, natural gas-fired power stations have the same total climatic impact as coal-fired power plants. In the short run, natural gas would be more damaging than coal if upstream emissions exceeded that proportion.

Another study published in the journal Nature in June 2021 by German researchers indicated that methane leakage of less than 4.9 percent will still provide natural gas a competitive advantage over coal. The threshold was set at 3.2 percent in a 2012 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Operators in the lucrative Permian Basin leaked 3.7 percent of the gas they extracted in 2018 and 2019, according to a 2020 study that modeled satellite readings of methane leaks across North America. According to Meijer’s estimates, the natural gas’s life cycle is from the well to the power plant stack.

What is the most environmentally friendly fossil fuel?

The majority of the energy in the United States comes from the combustion of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are not only a nonrenewable resource, but they also harm the ecosystem and contribute to global warming. It is critical that the United States reduces its reliance on fossil fuels and shifts to renewable energy sources. Natural gas is a major source of energy in the United States (Figure 1, EIA, 2008) and is used in a variety of industries (Figure 2, data from EIA, 2008).

The Marcellus Shale holds 50 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, enough to supply the United States for two years at present consumption rates1.

Comparison of Emissions for Fuel Sources

Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel in terms of emissions from power plants. The emissions of numerous stack gasses for natural gas, oil, and coal are compared using data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) branch of the Department of Energy (DOE). Natural gas does not emit considerable amounts of nitrogen oxides or sulfur dioxide, in addition to reducing CO2 emissions.

Leaks of methane (CH4) from natural gas pipelines, on the other hand, could be a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Because methane contributes more to climate change per pound than CO2, even tiny methane leaks could cause natural gas to contribute more to climate change than coal. According to a 1997 research by the EPA and GRI, natural gas’s lower CO2 emissions outweigh any greenhouse gas emissions from methane leaks2. It’s uncertain whether these figures still apply to contemporary gas output, but in 1997, natural gas leaks were estimated to account for 19-21 percent of anthropocentric methane emissions in the United States3. Before making precise comparisons between the climate change effects of natural gas and other fossil fuels, more conclusive research is required.

Water withdraws

For cooling plant equipment, power plants require enormous amounts of clean freshwater. Power generation in the Susquehanna Valley, Pennsylvania, consumes 150 million gallons of water every day. In this area, the projected peak water demand for shale gas drilling is only 8.5 million gallons per day. 4

Probability of failure

The American Petroleum Institute looked into the possibility of injected fluids contaminating subsurface drinking water sources in the 1980s (USDW). The likelihood of failure, assuming acceptable well casing design, was calculated to be between 2 x 10-5 and 2 x 10-8. The probability that a well will damage a USDW is predicted to be even smaller than 2 x 10-8 due to new developments in well construction technology and taking injection conditions into account. Failure of the lined fracking liquids containment ponds is another possible source of contamination of USDWs. The chances of failure are projected to be increased, but this is unknown.

Other Environmental Concerns

In general, natural gas extraction and combustion are more environmentally beneficial than coal. While other fossil fuels can be more harmful and destructive, natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing has far more negative environmental repercussions.

Water Pollution

Coal mining and combustion contribute significantly to water contamination. Permitting restrictions under the Clean Air Act require coal-fired power stations to remove dangerous substances from flue gas. Scrubbers, which take flue gas and extract contaminants into water, are used to remove these compounds. The water is treated in the power plants, and the operators are granted a discharge permit under the Clean Water Act to discharge it into a local stream. Arsenic, aluminum, boron, chromium, manganese, nickel, and lead are all common pollutants found in power plant waste water. Many dangerous contaminants discovered in power plant waste water effluent emissions are not controlled or are only regulated in certain specific circumstances, according to a New York Times study of EPA records. In addition to the sporadic regulation of contaminants in wastewater, the provisions of the discharge permit have been demonstrated to be laxly enforced. Many cases of arsenic entering streams at amounts surpassing 18 times the federal drinking water standard, for example, were discovered by the Times research. 6

Acid Rain

Unlike natural gas, coal and oil emissions can create acid rain, which occurs when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with hydroxyl radicals in the atmosphere to form acid rain.

Acid Mine Drainage

The drainage from current and retired coal mines, known as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), is another impact of coal mining and extraction on regional water quality. AMD is the most frequent non-point source pollutant in the Mid Atlantic region. When pyrite combines with air and water to produce sulfuric acid and dissolved iron, AMD is generated. This can result in red, yellow, or orange silt in streambeds, as well as the dissolution of other heavy metals, which are then released into surface and groundwater systems. AMD has harmed about 4,000 kilometers of waterways in the Mid Atlantic region. AMD has also killed fish and other aquatic species, as well as contaminated drinking water supplies. 7

Mountaintop Removal

West Virginia, Mountaintop Removal, and Coal Strip Mining Blaine O’Neill 2010 photo

In the United States, mountaintop coal mining has recently increased. This method entails clearing mountains of trees and topsoil, then using explosives to obtain access to coal buried beneath. Mountaintop clearance affects large swaths of deciduous woodland, increasing runoff and destroying habitat. Headwaters can be buried, aquatic habitats are harmed, and downstream water becomes extremely contaminated when valleys are filled with debris created by mountaintop removal. Organisms, ecological function, and human health are all threatened by this water pollution. 8


M.R. Harrison, T.M. Shires, J.K. Wessels, and R.M. Cowgill. 2. Harrison, M.R., T.M. Shires, J.K. Wessels, and R.M. Cowgill. 1997. Emissions of Methane from the Natural Gas Industry National Risk Management Research Laboratory of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Kirchgessner, D.A., R.A. Lott, R.M. Cowgill, M.R. Harrison, T.M. Shires, R.A. Lott, R.M. Cowgill, R.M. Cowgill, R.M. Cowgill, R.M. Cowgill, R.M. Cowgill, Estimated methane emissions from the natural gas industry in the United States. Pages 1365-1390 in Chemosphere, Volume 35, Issue 6, September 1997.

“Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer,” United States Department of Energy (DOE). April of that year. http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/minres/oilgas/US Dept Energy Report Shale Gas Primer 2009.pdf

ibid. 4.

6. Charles Duhigg, “Cleaning the Air at the Cost of Waterways.” The New York Times published an article on the 12th of October, 2009. The Energy Information Administration published this report in 2008. Energy Review for the Year. www.eia.doe.gov/aer

M.A. Palmer, E.S. Bernhardt, W.H. Schlesinger, K.N. Eshleman, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, M.S. Hendryx, A.D. Lemly, G.E. Likens, O.L. Loucks, M.E. Power, P.S. White, and P.R. Wilcock are among the authors of this paper. Science 327: 148-149, 2010. Mountaintop Mining Consequences.

Is natural gas better for the environment than electricity?

When it comes to installing appliances, replacing outdoor appliances, or plumbing a new Arizona company or house, do you think about the fuel source?

Energy is required in homes for heating, cooling, appliances, and other purposes. There are currently no viable options for generating all of our energy from renewable sources. That means that all of the energy we use in our houses will have an influence on the environment in some way.

While scientists work to develop less environmentally hazardous energy sources, with the ultimate objective of 100% renewable energy, consumers should do everything possible to lessen their carbon impact. Examining the types of heating fuel, equipment, and appliances we use in our houses is one way.

So, for our home, which is the more environmentally friendly energy source: natural gas or electricity? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between electricity and natural gas.

The pros of electricity:

  • Electricity is an extremely environmentally friendly energy source. Unlike most other fuel sources when converted to thermal energy, the process of generating electricity does not normally emit any harmful greenhouse gases or environmentally dangerous byproducts.
  • Heat pumps, which can heat and cool a home in the same manner that a furnace and air conditioner do, make electricity a viable choice for some. When a heat pump is less expensive than natural gas, it is determined by the size of your home and how well it is insulated and sealed. A larger, older house will cost more than a smaller, well-insulated house.

Cons of electricity:

  • We may eventually be able to generate electricity only from renewable sources, leaving our homes with a minimal carbon footprint. Until then, however, a significant portion of our country’s electricity is generated in plants that transform fossil fuels. Note that hydroelectric generating does not involve the combustion of fossil fuels, therefore it is far 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.
  • Older electrical resistance equipment, such as electric furnaces, electric wall heaters, electric space heaters, and electric baseboard heaters, are inefficient, contributing to higher electricity consumption and costs.
  • Heat pumps are a cost-effective way to heat and cool a home, but it will take several years for the energy savings of a heat pump to pay for the additional installation cost as long as natural gas prices remain low.
  • Because it runs all year, cooling and heating your home, a heat pump has a shorter lifespan than both a straight cool air conditioner and a furnace. Because an air conditioner only has to operate during the hotter months and a furnace only has to run during the cooler months, you might want to consider getting an air conditioner with a furnace if you’re searching for a system that you won’t have to replace very often.

Pros of natural gas:

  • Natural gas is a fuel that is clean, efficient, and cost-effective.
  • Even if you’re using the lowest-efficiency furnace, the cost is significantly lower.
  • When natural gas efficiency are applied to other applications such as kitchen ranges, clothes dryers, indoor or outdoor grills, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and pool and spa heaters, considerable savings and worldwide advantages result.
  • Natural gas is a “green fuel,” meaning it helps to mitigate the environmental damage caused by the use of other fuels like electricity or wood. It emits less carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury than electricity and other fuels because it burns cleaner. All of this translates to cleaner air, less acid rain, and a safer food supply.
  • Natural gas pipelines are one of the safest modes of energy transport in the United States. Local natural gas firms or utility companies provide convenient service and ensure that gas is always available.
  • The majority of natural gas utilized in the United States is produced in the country, and it is a rich resource. Natural gas is currently accessible in sufficient quantities to meet domestic demand for the next 75 years. Every year, more sources are added to the mix. This allows smart people plenty of time to discover better renewable energy sources.

Cons of natural gas:

  • Methane and other hydrocarbons make up the majority of natural gas. 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.
  • Natural gas is carried across the country via pipelines, with leakage accounting for up to 3% of the total. Trucks and rail, which, of course, utilize fossil fuels, are also used to deliver natural gas.
  • Although inexpensive detectors are available, burning natural gas within the residence can produce carbon monoxide gas, which is transparent and odorless. Natural gas furnaces and appliances are absolutely safe to have in a home as long as they perform correctly and are properly maintained.

Whether you choose electricity or natural gas as your home’s energy source, the most essential thing is to raise your home’s efficiency as much as possible by upgrading to high-efficiency equipment (not just for the environment, but also for your wallet).