*Note: This blog post was originally posted here*
Prior to 2005 natural gas production here in the United States remained relatively flat. However, after 2005 we saw a surge in domestic natural gas production fueled by technological advancements in hydraulic fracturing. This glut of clean natural gas has allowed Americans to benefit from lower energy costs, cleaner air and a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In fact, increased natural gas use in the United States has helped get CO2 emissions back down to levels previously seen in the mid ‘90s. Clean natural gas use here in United States has not only brought reductions in CO2 emissions but also in Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx) and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2). Removing these emissions from the atmosphere is leading to cleaner air for Americans. A perfect example of this is what we’re currently seeing in New York City with regards to air quality.
According to a press release by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg:
“NYC air quality has reached the cleanest levels in more than 50 years. Levels of sulfur dioxide in the air have dropped by 69% and since 2007 the level of soot pollution has dropped by 23%.The cleaner air is preventing 800 deaths, 2,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations from lung and cardiovascular diseases annually, compared to 2008.”
Thanks in no small part to increased natural gas use, New Yorkers are breathing cleaner and healthier air. The continued supply of natural gas and available infrastructure here in the United States has allowed a shift from traditional fuels to natural gas when it comes to power generation and transportation.
The chart above provided by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) shows natural gas power generation is on the rise in Northeastern United States, mostly fueled by the mighty Marcellus Shale. With natural gas remaining one of the most abundant and affordable fuel sources we will continue to see its relevance in power generation rise, all the while air emissions will continue to drop.
Understanding all these benefits of clean natural gas end use has led companies operating in the United States to shift their vehicle fleets to run on compressed natural gas (CNG). With the average CNG price under $2 per kilogram when compared to an equivalent gallon of gasoline, the opportunity for savings is huge. Two companies taking advantage of this in the Marcellus Shale region are Cabot Oil & Gas and Range Resources.
Converting to clean natural gas vehicle fleets in the United States
This past year Cabot Oil & Gas built their own CNG filling station in Springville, Pennsylvania where they fuel their vehicle fleet, which a majority of runs on natural gas. The saving opportunities are so vast that Cabot also implemented a natural gas fueled drilling rig. According to Cabot the natural gas rig has led to:
- Reduced air emissions for a cleaner environment, due to a reduction in diesel usage.
- Reduced truck traffic when field gas at or near the well site is used due to a reduction in the transportation of diesel fuel to the site.
- Reduced operational costs, as natural gas is a less expensive fuel option than diesel, providing potential cost savings for the industry and for energy consumers.
Operating at the other end of the state in the South West Pennsylvania, Range Resources recently purchased 184 natural gas fueled vehicles. The vehicles purchased by Range were evenly split between Dodge Ram and Chevy Silverado trucks. With companies like these leading the way for cleaner burning CNG it will only be a matter of time until we see more stations and vehicles on the road.
With decades of natural gas production ahead of us it’s clear we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of all the positive impacts clean natural gas use will have on the environment and people. Countries blessed with vast resources like the United States should take note of the positive effects we’re seeing here.