Updating the Facts: Emissions from Natural Gas Systems (EA 2014-02) 

  Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990-2012, Environmental Protection Agency

Full Report | April 22, 2014

Updating the Facts: Emissions from Natural Gas Systems (EA 2014-02)

Presentation | April 22, 2014
PowerPoint Slides

Natural gas remains a fuel of choice for consumers because of its low cost, efficient end uses, and environmental attributes. This domestically produced energy source is poised to serve as a foundation fuel for the US economy for years to come.

This potential has focused public attention on how the increased use of natural gas can reduce the environmental footprint of our energy usage. The use of natural gas results in far less carbon dioxide than coal or oil for the same amount of beneficial energy derived, and natural gas technologies serve as an affordable complement to renewable energy. Better understanding of natural gas emissions released from production and delivery systems will further clarify how greater use of natural gas achieves all desired environmental benefits.

It reveals that the natural gas distribution systems have a small emissions footprint shaped by a declining trend. Using EPA estimates, only 0.24 percent of produced natural gas is emitted from distribution systems owned and operated by local natural gas utilities. These emissions have declined 22 percent since 1990 even as natural gas utility companies added 600,000 miles of pipeline to serve 17.5 million more customers, an increase of more than 30 percent in both cases. This exceptional record can be traced to safety as the top priority for gas utilities who continue to be vigilant and deeply committed to systematically upgrading infrastructure through risk-based integrity management programs.

Key Findings from AGA Analysis of EPA GHG Inventory

  • Methane emissions from the natural gas value chain, which includes field production, processing, transmissions and storage, and distribution, result in an effective 1.3 percent emissions rate of produced natural gas.

  • Natural gas utility distribution systems methane emissions amount to an emissions rate of 0.24 percent of produced natural gas in 2012.

  • Natural gas system methane emissions were 130 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTe) in 2012, a decline of 17 percent from 1990 levels and 15 percent below 2005.

  • Distribution system methane emissions were 26 MMTe in 2012 and have shrunk 22 percent between 1990 and 2012, even as the industry added 600,000 miles of total pipe (service and main lines) to serve 17.5 million more customers, an increase of 32 percent in both cases.

  • Nearly 90 percent of the historical drop in methane emissions from distribution systems since 1990 are a direct result of pipeline upgrades to modern plastic and protected steel.

Contact:    Richard Meyer, Manager, Policy Analysis (202) 824-7134


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