Answering Aunt Edna

Natural Gas & The Grid

With summer temps heating up, chances are you’ve edged your thermostat down to keep your home cool. You also may be fielding questions from family and friends about electricity use and what natural gas has to do with running the A/C. Let’s explore the connection between natural gas and the electrical grid.

Natural gas is now the leading fuel for electricity generation.

Electricity generated from natural gas reached a record-high level last summer, with 33.8 percent of total U.S. electricity coming from this energy source. Over the past five years coal and natural gas have accounted for 66 percent of U.S. electricity generation, though coal’s share of the energy mix has declined during that time as natural gas has risen.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Monthly Update, April 2017

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the demand for natural gas will grow by approximately 56 percent through 2040 – and not just for use in power generation, but also as a raw material in many consumer products.

Where does the natural gas we use come from?

The U.S. produces nearly all the natural gas we use. Five states contribute about 65 percent of the total U.S. dry natural gas production: Texas (26 percent), Pennsylvania (18 percent), Oklahoma (9 percent), Wyoming (6 percent) and Louisiana (6 percent).

How does natural gas get to consumers?

Consumers in two-thirds of the contiguous United States depend on the interstate pipeline system for their supply of natural gas.

The pipeline transportation of natural gas from areas of production to consumers is highly regulated, monitored and inspected by federal, state and local agencies. The Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has called pipelines the safest and most environmentally-friendly way to move petroleum and natural gas. Check out our Answering Aunt Edna on this topic for more information about pipeline use and safety.

When it comes to the electrical grid, I also hear a lot about renewable energy. How do natural gas and renewables fit together?

Renewable electricity generation is a popular topic of conversation right now, with many people interested in how the use of renewables can help reduce greenhouse gas levels.

But the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) points out the reasons we don’t currently use more renewable energy – clouds reduce electricity from solar panels and still days reduce electricity from wind turbines. The intermittent availability of power from renewable energy sources means that natural gas provides critical support to the electrical grid, ensuring that consumers have the electricity they need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Along with being reliable, natural gas is also cleaner-burning, producing lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than heavier hydrocarbon fuels — and emitting about half as much CO2 as coal when burned. Emissions produced by the U.S. electric power sector have declined significantly over the past decade largely due to an increased use of natural gas for power generation.

Action Item

Natural gas is a growing segment of Chevron’s energy portfolio and a clean, reliable way to meet the country’s energy needs now and into the future. As summer approaches, we encourage you to use the information above to discuss the benefits of natural gas with family and friends.

‘Answering Aunt Edna’ is a recurring series that is designed to help CAN members answer tough questions from their friends, family and neighbors.

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