9 Primary Pros and Cons of Natural Gas

Natural gas, as its name implies, is a type of fossil fuel that develops naturally in the environment. It’s produced when plant and animal matter beneath the earth’s surface decompose and are exposed to high amounts of heat and pressure. This type of gas is a mixture of different hydrocarbons, most of which are methane along with traces of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and other gases.

Natural gas is usually processed before it can be supplied to consumers to remove water and other impurities. This process creates several by-products, including ethane, butane, propane, nitrogen, helium, and carbon dioxide. Once it’s processed, natural gas is distributed to consumers and used in cooking, heating, and generating electricity. It’s also utilized in manufacturing plastics as well as chemicals that are important in various industries.

Many people praise natural gas and point out that it’s one of the forces behind the rapid development of the modern world. However, there are also those who frown on its use and believe that it greatly contributes to the destruction of the environment. To learn more about these two arguments, let’s examine the pros and cons of natural gas.

List of Pros of Natural Gas

1. It’s cleaner than other types of fuels.
Natural gas is considered to be “cleaner” or more environmentally friendly compared to other kinds of energy sources. It produces around 30 percent less carbon dioxide than oil and 45 percent less CO2 than coal; in 2012, for instance, natural gas produced only 6,799 metric tons of CO2 while petroleum and coal produced 11,695 and 13,787 metric tons, respectively. Natural gas also produces fewer pollutants (such as nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide) compared to other types of fossil fuels and is considered to be cleaner than diesel and gasoline.

2. It has many uses.
As mentioned above, natural gas has a wide range of uses in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. It’s used to cook food both in homes and restaurants and provide heat in houses, apartments, offices, and shops. It’s also used in manufacturing several types of plastics and commercially valuable chemicals. It can even be used to power vehicles that are designed to run on natural gas.

3. It’s easy to produce and deliver.
The technology for extracting and purifying natural gas is already in place and has been used for several years. Because of this, it’s easy to obtain natural gas from the ground and turning it into its usable state. Distributing it to customers is also simple because there are numerous vehicles that are specially designed to transport natural gas as well as special tanks that are built to store the gas and keep it safe.

4. It creates numerous jobs.
Natural gas can’t extract and purify itself, which means thousands of people are needed to obtain the gas from the ground, remove its impurities, and deliver it to consumers. Scientists and researchers are also needed to improve the extraction, purification, and transportation processes and make them more efficient. Because of these, many jobs are created and a lot of people are given the chance to earn a living.

List of Cons of Natural Gas

1. It produces a large amount of CO2.
Natural gas, as mentioned above, produces less CO2 than coal and petroleum. However, if you consider actual usage, you’ll see that it’s actually a huge source of CO2 since consumption has been steadily rising by two percent every year. Experts predict that, by the time 2030 rolls around, natural gas will be the source of around 11 billion tons of CO2 every year. Although it’s lower than the predicted CO2 emissions of oil in 2030 (which is estimated to be around 17 billion tons), it’s still a significant amount that can do a lot of damage to the environment.

2. It contains methane.
As mentioned above, natural gas is mostly composed of methane, which is highly effective in trapping heat when it reaches the atmosphere and therefore greatly contributes to global warming. In fact, in a 20-year period, the global warming potential of methane is 84 times higher than that of carbon dioxide. With these in mind, it’s easy to see that methane is more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 and that the greenhouse effect increases the more natural gas is extracted and used.

3. It’s non-renewable.
Proponents of natural gas point out that it has abundant supplies since it can be found in almost all parts of the world. However, it’s worth noting that these supplies are finite since the rate of the earth’s natural gas production (which takes millions of years) is too slow compared to the rate of its consumption. So, the time will definitely come when there wouldn’t be enough natural gas to satisfy everybody’s needs.

4. It can cause accidents.
Aside from being highly flammable, natural gas is tasteless and odorless, so people can’t really detect its presence. As a result, an internal pipe leak can pump high amounts of natural gas in a house or business establishment without anyone noticing. Usually, the gas can dissipate through doors and windows, but this is difficult when the structure is airtight. In this case, the gas may ignite when a stove, a cigarette lighter, or any other source of fire is turned on. The gas may also collect in large quantities until it reaches an amount that’s enough to cause an explosion.

5. It can cause health problems.
Natural gas can cause carbon monoxide poisoning when used in a poorly vented system and inhaled by humans. In the U.S., for example, 6 carbon monoxide deaths were caused by natural gas-powered furnaces in 2011, and this number rose to 16 in 2012. These incidents can happen since, as mentioned above, humans can’t detect the presence of carbon monoxide through their sense of smell. To prevent CO poisoning, it’s important to install carbon monoxide alarms that can detect this harmful gas in the room.

Final Note

Natural gas is a huge part of the modern world because it helps power the products and services that people depend on. Still, it’s important to note that it’s not a perfect energy source and that it has numerous drawbacks that need to be addressed.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.