What are the current concerns regarding natural gas delivery systems in the United States? What can be done to improve them?
Natural gas delivery systems do have issues and concerns. Natural gas in itself mainly consists of methane which is considered a greenhouse gas. This is bad for the environment overall. The storage, transportation, etc contribute to 4 percent of total US methane emissions. Drilling a natural gas well on land may require clearing and leveling an area around the well site. Well drilling activities produce air pollution and may disturb people, wildlife, and water resources. Laying pipelines that transport natural gas from wells usually requires clearing land to bury the pipe. Natural gas production can also produce large volumes of contaminated water. This water requires proper handling, storage, and treatment so that it does not pollute land and other waters. Natural gas wells and pipelines often have engines to run equipment and compressors, which produce air pollutants and noise.
Natural gas is often referred to as a ‘bridge’ fuel? What is meant by this, and is this moniker valid?
Natural gas advocates characterize it as a bridge fuel. The implication is that we will use it now, to achieve short-term greenhouse gas reductions by replacing coal-fired power, then reduce or end reliance on natural gas over some time period to lock in long-term greenhouse gas reductions. While at first glance this makes sense but overtime due to leakage the new coal fired plants. There are some periods in the next 30 years when gas will result in more climate impact than new coal plants. If leakage is higher than 4 percent, there are some periods when gas will be worse for the climate than existing coal plants.
What are the benefits or consequences involved with liquefying natural gas in order to export gas acquired from the Marcellus and Utica shales?
Environmental Benefits of LNG. Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel and the increased use of natural gas can significantly improve local air quality and public heath as well as reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.The push for exports makes sense for producers who have become the victims of their own success. U.S. Natural gas prices have plummeted in recent years due to increased production in gas plays like the Marcellus Shale. The price of natural gas in the U.S. now hovers around $3.50 per million British thermal units. But in Europe that same amount of gas fetches more than $10. So exports would help producers by reducing domestic supply and increasing prices. The report, conducted for the DOE by the economic consulting firm NERA, says exports make sense as long as there’s a glut of natural gas with low production costs in the U.S. and a high demand overseas. The study concludes that new LNG export terminals would result in just slight increases in the price of natural gas. The consequences of liquefying natural gas is air pollution. Cleaner burning than other fossil fuels, the combustion of natural gas produces negligible amounts of sulfur, mercury, and particulates. Burning natural gas does produce nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are precursors to smog, but at lower levels than gasoline and diesel used for motor vehicles.
What impact does the discovery of the Marcellus and Utica shales have on US energy policy overall?
Federally these discoveries have little impact on the US energy policy. This is mostly up to each state to decide on what they want to do. Currently, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia are at the heart of the eastern shale gas leasing and drilling boom, with tens of thousands of wells drilled and permits for thousands more already issued. In December 2014, New York announced it would prohibit high volume hydraulic fracturing in the state due to growing evidence of damage to the environment and human health. The process has also been on hold in Maryland due to public opposition and an in-depth review of risks and impacts; however, in November 2014 the state completed that work and issued regulations, signaling the possibility that drilling could move forward. In the meantime, gas production has expanded in Pennsylvania and Ohio—giving rise to plans for a network of new pipelines and compressor stations region-wide to get the gas to market, as well as increasing volumes of waste that must be managed and disposed of.
eia (2020). Natural Gas Explained. Retrieved from: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/natural-gas-and-the-environment.php (Links to an external site.)
Hausfather, Z (Aug 23,2016). Is natural gas a bridge fuel? Retrieved from: https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2016/08/is-natural-gas-a-bridge-fuel/ (Links to an external site.)
Earthworks (2019). Marcellus and Utica Shale. Retrieved from: https://earthworks.org/stories/marcellus_and_utica_shale/ (Links to an external site.)
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