The Reliability and Availability of Natural Gas – A Sustainable Energy Solution

Energy security is a critical component of the global economy. Unlike fossil fuels, sustainable energy solutions don’t pollute air and water.

The ferocity highlighted the reliability and economic interdependencies between the electric and natural gas sectors. Public power utilities are particularly interested in access to reliable natural gas supplies because it drives wholesale electricity prices.

It’s Sustainable

Natural gas’s physical characteristics provide stability to the energy system. Its underground, looped infrastructure keeps the supply safe and secure. With 3,368 trillion cubic feet and 2.6 million miles of pipelines, natural gas is available where you need it. Unplanned outages affect only one in 800 natural gas customers each year, and the pipeline system is 92% efficient from production to delivery. Its composition is mainly hydrogen, making it less corrosive and toxic than gasoline. Over one-third of the natural gas consumed in the United States is used to generate electricity. Electricity plants that utilize natural gas can ramp up or down quickly to balance the variations in power generation caused by the increasing amounts of intermittent renewables on the grid. In addition, the ability of many natural gas-fired generation facilities to operate on a variable basis helps keep electricity prices low.

It’s Affordable

Natural gas is a clean, cost-effective fuel for power generation. It emits less carbon dioxide than coal per kilowatt hour of electricity produced. It is also more energy efficient than coal in coal-fired plants and even more efficient in combined-cycle plants. As a result, it has the potential to help address global warming and air quality concerns.

The United States has abundant natural gas supplies, estimated at over 400 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Domestic production has grown over 20% in the past few years, and is now the world’s largest producer. Natural gas is odorless, colorless, and non-toxic. It is found and associated with crude oil, mostly under dry land but sometimes beneath the ocean floor. It is a mixture of hydrocarbons, predominantly methane (CH4), with smaller amounts of ethane, propane, and butane.

It is a fossil fuel but burns much cleaner than coal and petroleum. A typical natural gas-powered power plant produces half as many undesirable byproducts, including sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, as a coal-fired plant. Because of its low cost, natural gas distribution is essential in energy resources, especially as an emergency backstop for renewables and other intermittent generation sources. 

It’s Flexible

Natural gas is a versatile energy source that can meet various energy needs. It can provide backup generation when intermittent renewables like wind and solar aren’t available. It can process heat to melt glass, cook food and preheat metals in manufacturing. It can be blended with hydrogen to fuel combined heat and power plants for electricity production. It can also replace diesel and gasoline in buses and heavy-duty trucks, helping to reduce emissions that contribute to smog and greenhouse gases.

In addition to its domestic availability, natural gas’s versatility means it can be quickly and safely transported to where it is needed via the nation’s extensive pipeline system. The physical attributes of the pipeline network – its underground, looped infrastructure that can be rapidly repaired after an outage and its 92% efficiency from the source to the consumer – make it resilient in the face of many disruptions. The natural gas industry is working to expand its role in the clean energy economy. Using competitive markets and technological innovation, natural gas is becoming a more sustainable energy solution. This includes developing more renewable natural gas (RNG), which is methane captured and converted from organic materials like wood, food, and waste rather than released directly into the atmosphere.

It’s Reliable

Natural gas is one of the most reliable energy sources available – it’s clean, efficient, and safe for consumers. And it’s a versatile fuel that can be used for electricity generation and to run homes and businesses – from cooking and heating to dry cleaning.

It’s a fossil fuel from plant material cooked over millions of years in an oxygen-poor environment. It contains a mixture of light hydrocarbons, including methane, ethane, butane, pentanes, and carbon dioxide, with low hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen concentrations. It’s also known as fracked, fracking, or simply “gas.”

Because it is lighter than air, it rises in the atmosphere and can be collected from underground deposits or ocean vessels. It’s then transported by pipelines, either as a liquid (Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG) or as a gas under atmospheric pressure (compressed natural gas or CNG).

Pipeline networks operate to deliver the right amount of natural gas to consumers promptly. But, a shortage in natural gas supply causes further economic losses to different types of users. Because of this, it is necessary to accurately evaluate the reliability of a pipeline network system from a financial perspective. This paper proposes a new reliability evaluation method based on the demand-side economic loss risk. The process can more accurately reflect the actual supply level of a pipeline network system to customers and better identify the impact of fault events on the economic loss of demand-side users.

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