March 24, 2017

U.S. EIA: Natural Gas Use Contributed to 2015 Decline in Carbon Emissions

Carbon emissions are an inevitable side-effect of energy production, given the ongoing reliance on fossil fuels in the U.S. However, as the manner in which that energy is produced changes, so too do the levels of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Thanks to a diversification of our country’s energy resources – and particularly an increase in the use of cleaner-burning, more efficient natural gas – the U.S. is witnessing a steady decline in its carbon emissions levels.

A recently released report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration titled “U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2015” underscores the positive impacts of the use of natural gas over other energy alternatives. According to the report, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions decreased by 146 million metric tons in 2015. Natural gas played an important role in

Among the other findings in the report:

  • Natural gas CO2 emissions have increased since 2009, as the natural gas share of electricity generation has grown at the expense of coal, partially offsetting the decline in energy-related CO2 emissions from petroleum and other liquids and coal. Natural gas CO2 emissions were still slightly lower than those from coal in 2015. However, natural gas produces more energy for the same amount of emissions as coal—contributing to the 2015 decline in total emissions.
  • Natural gas CO2 emissions rose every year since 2009, except 2015 when emissions declined slightly (0.3%). Because it is the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel, natural gas use has mitigated overall CO2 emissions growth.

Notably, the report finds that “increased use of natural gas and the growth in non-carbon generation has contributed to the decline in electric power sector carbon intensity since 2005.”

  • Two basic factors contributed to lower electric power sector carbon intensity (CO2/kWh) since 2005: (1) substitution of the less-carbon-intensive and more efficient combined-cycle natural gas generation for coal-fired generation, and (2) growth in non-carbon generation, especially wind and solar.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, CO2 emissions dropped by a cumulative 2,533 MMmt as a result of these two factors.

In order to continue these trends, the construction of midstream infrastructure will be critical to safely transporting natural gas to end markets, from where it can reach power generation plants, businesses, manufacturers, and domestic consumers. The Rover Pipeline will facilitate this access – and itself will carry natural gas in a more environmentally friendly manner than other modes of transportation. As the project moves to construction, CEPI looks forward to the environmental and economic benefits that the Rover Pipeline will create for the region.

Read the full report here.