The Declining Trend of Natural Gas Emissions
- Safety is the top priority for America’s natural gas utilities.
- According to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, our domestic abundance of clean natural gas is delivered via the safest energy delivery system in the nation.
- Emissions from natural gas utility distribution systems have dropped 16 percent since 1990, even as the number of customers served has increased by 30 percent.
- Only 0.3 percent of produced natural gas is emitted from systems operated by local natural gas utilities according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Continued efforts to upgrade and modernize the natural gas pipeline network to enhance safety are lowering emissions even further.
- Even with the historically excellent performance of the nation’s natural gas delivery system, natural gas utilities remain vigilant and committed to continually upgrading this crucial infrastructure based on enhanced risk-based integrity management programs.
- 38 states have a program to facilitate accelerated replacement and modernization of natural gas distribution pipelines no longer fit for service.
- America’s natural gas utilities work with their state regulators, legislators and other key stakeholders to advance important safety policies that both enhance system integrity and reliability and support increased access to natural gas service for homes and businesses.
- The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners has approved a resolution encouraging state regulators and industry to consider sensible programs aimed at replacing the most vulnerable pipelines as quickly as possible and to explore, examine and consider adopting alternative rate recovery mechanisms in order to accelerate the modernization, replacement and expansion of the nation’s natural gas pipeline systems.
- Since 1990, natural gas utilities have added nearly 600,000 miles of distribution mains and services to serve 17 million more customers.
- Natural gas utilities have installed modern plastic pipes used for delivering gas at low pressure at a rate of 30,000 miles per year, and cathodically protected steel mains used for high pressure delivery at a rate of 1,500 miles per year, both connecting new customers and upgrading existing pipeline infrastructure.
- About 66 percent of the emissions declines from distribution systems since 1990 are due to pipeline replacements.
- AGA and our member companies are committed to continuing to conduct research to help inform accurate data regarding the emissions profile of the natural gas distribution industry, which will help build an understanding of where further improvement is needed.
- A Washington State University research team led by Regents Professor Brian Lamb is engaged in a study to quantify methane emissions throughout local gas systems. This study will increase understanding of the carbon footprint of natural gas through real world, accurate data.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that lost and unaccounted for gas (LUAF) should not be used to estimate emissions from the natural gas delivery system because it does not provide the desired level of data accuracy and quality and no current studies exist that accurately define the percentage of LUAF that reflects actual emissions from a system.
- LUAF is an accounting mechanism that is used in the ratemaking process to address the difference between the gas measured into the distribution system and the gas measured out of the utility system. In general, most of that volumetric difference is not attributable to emissions.