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Gas storage spheres at a gas refinery in the evening.

In a world heavily reliant on harmful fossil fuels, natural gas stands out as a pivotal transitional energy source. It burns much cleaner than oil or coal and provides reliability, especially amid the ongoing development of renewable energy. As the top producer of natural gas, the United States supplies nearly 25% of the world’s supply. While our abundant gas reserves have reliably powered the nation for over two centuries, questions arise about the future of this finite resource in the global pursuit of net-zero emissions. With over 20 years in the industry, Integrity Energy is committed to guiding you through the intricacies of the energy sector, providing you with the latest updates and insights on natural gas and the pursuit of clean energy. 

Natural Gas 101

Natural gas is a fossil fuel composed primarily from methane. It originates from the remnants of plant and animal life buried deep underneath earth’s surface. The immense pressure and heat created during decomposition causes a chemical reaction, resulting in natural gas and oil.

Infographic depicting how petroleum and natural gas are formed over millions of years through the decay of organic plant and animal life.


Natural gas variations

Under the general natural gas umbrella, there are several variations. The first main categories are dry versus wet gas. Dry gas, also known as biogenic gas, contains 95% or more methane. Biogenic gas is formed by organic decay at a shallow depth. Conversely, wet gas, also known as thermogenic gas, is a lower quality of gas that also contains compounds like ethane and butane. Thermogenic gas needs to be processed to separate each compound before it can be used as energy or fuel. 

The second level of categorization is compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid natural gas (LNG). While they are the same material, CNG stays in gaseous form for domestic use whereas LNG is produced by purifying CNG and super-cooling it to -260°F, turning into liquid. During this process, the matter compresses substantially, allowing LNG to be transported long distances without the need for pipeline infrastructure. 

Extraction and production processes

Two main methods for natural gas extraction exist: standard drilling and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The standard method involves drilling a well vertically into a large gas reservoir for extraction. Fracking, on the other hand, targets deeper gas deposits trapped in small rock pores by pumping high-pressure solutions of water, sand, and chemicals into reserves until the rock form breaks. It is occasionally called horizontal drilling due to the angle of the well within the rock formation.

The fracking process has been revolutionary for natural gas production. This advance in drilling technology has enabled a significant increase in production which is crucial as demand for gas has increased exponentially. Unfortunately, fracking has been connected to environmental and health issues such as seismic activity and groundwater contamination. Production facilities must play the difficult balancing act between safety and production demand.

Infographic depicting the differences between standard natural drilling and horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.


Current Role of Natural Gas in the United States

Natural gas plays a pivotal role in meeting energy demands in the United States. In 2022, natural gas accounted for 33% of the United States’ energy consumption, making it the second most popular energy source for electricity and heating, just behind oil.  Efforts to reduce reliance on dirtier fossil fuels, like coal and oil, are underway worldwide. While renewable energy provides intermittent power, gas emerges as a pillar of stability, providing reliable power with a smaller carbon footprint than coal or oil. 

With high demand comes high levels of production. The United States is both the biggest producer and consumer of natural gas worldwide. Texas stands out as both a powerhouse of production and consumption due to their extensive natural reserves. According to the Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA), as of October 2023, Texas has produced 43% of the country’s annual supply. Texas, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Oklahoma are the top producing states, accounting for an impressive 70% of the country’s gas generation. 

Economic impact of the natural gas industry

As an essential energy source, it’s no surprise that the natural gas industry has a powerful effect on the economy. As a whole, the natural gas and oil industry supports an astounding 9.8 million U.S. jobs which amounts to 8% of the U.S. economy. The U.S. is also the top exporter of liquified natural gas in the world, providing this resource to 46 countries in 2022. With the country’s abundant reserves, our position in the global energy market will continue to strengthen while the world transitions away from dirtier fossil fuels towards clean energy.

Natural Gas Suppliers and Infrastructure

Several prominent gas producers and exploration companies drive America’s energy sector. Integrated companies, like ExxonMobil, operate across the entire spectrum of the gas industry, engaging in both exploration and production. Exploration-focused companies, such as Chesapeake Energy, specialize in the initial phases of uncovering new gas reserves. These companies, alongside producers like Chevron, collectively ensure a steady supply to meet the country’s energy needs.

The infrastructure supporting this industry relies on an intricate network of pipelines clustered around major gas reserves, such as the Marcellus Shale in Appalachia or the vast reserves of Texas. As demand for natural gas increases, expansion and ongoing advancements in gas production will play a powerful role in fortifying America’s energy supply, especially in the transition to renewable energy.


Is Natural Gas Considered Clean Energy?

While natural gas is not a clean energy source, it is a necessary transitional fuel while the world pursues more reliable renewable energy. While it is a fossil fuel, it is much cleaner-burning than other fossil fuels, such as coal or oil. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas reserves in the United States are estimated to last about another 86 years if production and consumption levels remain consistent. 

Renewable natural gas (RNG) and biomethane

While natural gas is not renewable, scientific advancements have developed renewable natural gas (RNG) and biomethane. RND and Biomethane are biogases, renewable natural gas produced from decaying organic matter. While traditional natural gas is formed deep underground over millions of years, biogases can be created from readily available resources such as waste water sludge, food waste, manures, landfill gas, dead foliage, and municipal solid waste. As the organic material decays, it undergoes a process called anaerobic digestion, producing biomethane energy. Processing and purifying biomethane to meet industry standards transforms it into RNG, which can be used interchangeably with traditional natural gas. Currently, Europe is the leader in developing biogas technology. As this technology advances, biomethane and RNG will become much more widely available.

Environmental Implications of Natural Gas

Despite being an integral part of the transition to clean energy, natural gas production has some significant environmental implications. While gas is cleaner-burning, it still produces greenhouse gas emissions during extraction, processing, and LNG transportation. During extraction and processing, methane leaks into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Additional emissions release during the process of turning CNG into LNG. The environmental considerations of natural gas complicate further when considering the emissions when exporting LNG to distant locations.

Government Policies and Regulations

Domestic and international government agencies have several regulating entities in place to help control the environmental impact of natural gas and other fossil fuels. Domestically, the Clean Air Act has been in place since 1970 to regulate hazardous emissions. This law authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health as well as regulate hazardous emissions. As of December 2, 2023, the EPA has announced a new Final Rule with updated performance standards to further reduce the United States’ environmental impact. 

Internationally, the Paris Agreement is the major legally-binding treaty directing the worldwide effort to reduce the effects of global warming. 196 parties signed this agreement during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21.) This treaty provides a roadmap for well-established nations to support developing countries in their effort to limit global warming. The agreement also created the framework for countries to transparently monitor and report their progress towards climate goals. The International Energy Agency (IEA)  is another entity providing resources and guidance for sustainable and environmentally responsible natural gas development and emissions reduction.

Natural Gas and the Energy Transition

The energy landscape is currently undergoing a transformative shift towards cleaner energy sources. Natural gas, as a cleaner-burning fossil fuel, serves as a necessary transitional bridge from more carbon-intensive sources. Despite its finite nature, the United States’ abundant reserves and robust infrastructure contribute to greater energy security which is crucial while advances in technology address the intermittent nature of renewable energy production.

Ongoing advancements in natural gas technologies aim to further reduce the environmental impact of this industry. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) developments focus on capturing carbon emissions and converting it into usable energy. Additionally, progress in renewable natural gas (RNG) offers an additional avenue for generating renewable energy from waste products. The reliability and innovations of the natural gas industry play a key role in advancing clean energy and fostering a sustainable future. 

Challenges and Opportunities in the Natural Gas Industry

Market dynamics:

Market dynamics significantly influence the natural gas industry, impacting supply, demand, and pricing. Factors such as increased reliance, geopolitical conflicts, extreme seasonal weather, and international energy policies contribute to natural gas’s price volatility. Furthermore, fluctuations in production levels, storage capacities, and the increased demand of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in global trade also influence the intricate dynamics affecting natural gas pricing.

Pipeline expansion:

Pipeline expansion presents both challenges and opportunities in meeting the rising demand for natural gas. Expanding the country’s pipeline infrastructure is necessary to ensure a reliable and efficient supply of power. With expansion initiatives come concerns about environmental impact. To mitigate the ecological effects, the gas industry must adopt more sustainable practices, stringent regulations, and advance efficiency technologies to find the balance between meeting energy needs and protecting the environment.

Opportunities for innovation:

The gas industry offers ample opportunities for innovation and diversification. Ongoing advancements in exploration and drilling technologies will allow us to access undiscovered reserves. The development of RNG also presents a promising avenue for producing renewable energy from waste, furthering sustainability efforts. Additionally, continued progress in the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology will enable energy-intensive industries and energy generation to capture and repurpose their greenhouse gas emissions, reducing their carbon footprint significantly. 

The Future Outlook for Natural Gas

Currently, natural gas stands as one of the most reliable sources of power and a key component in the transition to renewable energy. As the world increasingly shifts away from more hazardous fossil fuels, the demand for natural gas will rise significantly. It’s crucial to recognize the finite nature of this resource, understanding that as demand increases and gas reserves deplete over time, the cost of natural gas will experience more volatile fluctuations.

While natural gas plays a crucial role in the ongoing transition, the world must simultaneously invest in and adopt specific renewable energy technologies to ensure reliability while meeting growing energy demands. While natural gas is a vital step towards an environmentally conscious future, it’s important to acknowledge that this marks a transitional phase before the widespread adoption of renewable energy technology.

Looking Forward to a Sustainable Future

If you would like to take your business one step closer to sustainability, consider switching to a natural gas energy plan. Integrity Energy is one of the largest commercial energy brokers in the nation. Business owners can find the most cost-effective and sustainable energy solutions available by contacting our dedicated representatives. Discuss energy options and find a plan tailored to your business’s unique needs, by contacting an Integrity Energy representative today!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is natural gas a clean energy source?

Natural gas is not a clean energy source, however it is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel. In comparison to coal, natural gas emits 50% less carbon dioxide when burned, resulting in a significantly smaller carbon footprint.

How long will natural gas reserves last?

The EIA estimates that gas reserves in the U.S. will last another 86 years if production and consumption remains consistent.

What are the alternatives to natural gas?

Alternatives to natural gas can come from renewable and nonrenewable sources. Alternate nonrenewable energy comes from coal or oil while renewable energy alternatives include solar, wind power, geothermal, and hydropower.

What is the role of natural gas in the electricity sector?

Natural gas is one of the most popular energy sources, accounting for 33% of the U.S.’s energy consumption in 2022.  It is cleaner burning than other fossil fuels and provides stable, back-up power for intermittent renewable sources. 

How does natural gas impact energy prices?

Natural gas is a finite fossil fuel. It is vulnerable to price fluctuations caused by supply and demand, severe weather conditions, international conflict, and it’s finite nature.

Does the natural gas industry create jobs?

The natural gas industry supplies 9.8 million jobs, accounting for 8% of the U.S. economy.

For additional answers to your inquiries about the natural gas industry, please visit our general FAQ page.