Is natural gas renewable or nonrenewable? No, natural gas is not renewable! For a resource to be considered renewable, it must replenish itself naturally. Unfortunately, natural gas is a fossil fuel, which means that it is not replenishing itself. Once it is gone, it is gone for good!
Things such as water, sunlight, and wind are called renewable resources because they’re inexhaustible, naturally occurring, and can be used again and again.
On the other hand, natural gas is a resource with a limited supply. Like coal and oil, the natural gas supply depletes over time and cannot be replenished, making it a nonrenewable source of energy.
What is natural gas?
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is composed of methane and other hydrocarbonshttps://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/natural_gas_basics.html#. It is formed beneath the earth’s surface and is often found in association with oil deposits. Natural gas is used for a variety of purposes, including heating, electricity generation, and manufacturing. In recent years, natural gas has also been used as a transportation fuel. Natural gas is a versatile and relatively clean-burning fuel, making it an attractive option for many applications.
Although natural gas is a clean burning fossil fuel, the process of extracting it from the earth can be rather harmful to the environment.
3 types of natural gas
Natural gas is not sustainable, but there is does have some factors of sustainability. There are three types of natural gas: Abiogenic, Biogenic, and Thermogenic.
- Abiogenic methane is a type of petroleum that doesn’t come from fossilized plants or animals. Instead, it originated from hydrogen-rich carbon deposits deep within the earth since its formation. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/014459878200100202
- Biogenic methane is produced by rotting organic matter, whether it be in landfills, on farms with cows, or elsewhere. This gas is created as a result of methanogens – microorganisms that consume decaying organic material. When these organisms excrete waste, methane is emitted. https://environment.govt.nz/guides/methane-and-other-major-greenhouse-gases/#:~:text=Biogenic%20methane%20is%20produced%20from,greenhouse%20gas%20than%20CO2).
- Thermogenic methane is created when mud and rock sediment put the remains of animals and plants under vast amounts of pressure. This process takes place deep underground where temperatures are extremely high, and over millions of years. https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/10chile/background/methane/methane.html
Though it comes from sources that cause climate change, biogenic methane can be a renewable natural gas to some extent. For example, if methane were collected from a landfill as it was produced, it could theoretically be used indefinitely. However, this is not often the case, and most methane gas is released into the atmosphere where it becomes a potent greenhouse gas.
Natural gas is not renewable, but there are ways to make its use more sustainable. One way to do this is by using methane gas collected from landfills. This gas can be used to generate electricity or power vehicles, and it would help to reduce the amount of methane that is released into the atmosphere. Another way to make natural gas use more sustainable is by using thermogenic methane. This type of methane is found deep underground and can be difficult to extract. However, once it is extracted, it can be used to generate electricity with very little pollution.
While natural gas is not renewable, there are ways to make its use more sustainable. By using methane gas collected from landfills and thermogenic methane found deep underground, we can help reduce the impact that natural gas has on the environment.
Natural gas is used to produce electricity
Over a third of the electricity in the United States is generated using natural gas, which accounted for 11.62 trillion cubic feet of consumption in 2021. This means that 38% of all the natural gas consumed in 2021 was used to generate electricity. https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3
In 2021, the industrial sector consumed the most natural gas out of any other sector in America. 10.09 trillion cubic feet were used in total, which is 35% of all the natural gas used that yearhttps://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/use-of-natural-gas.php. The industrial sector uses natural gas to produce chemicals and fertilizer as well as create hydrogen fuel cells.
In 2021, almost 4.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was used in residences, taking up 15% of the total amount consumed that yearhttps://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/use-of-natural-gas.php. Many homes in the U.S use natural gas for heating and cooling, rather than electricity which can be more expensive. It is also used to heat water or power appliances like dryers.
Which state uses the most natural gas?
With a population, commerce, and industry size rivaling that of most countries, it’s no wonder Texas consumes more natural gas than any other state in the U.S. In fact, electricity generated from natural gas accounts for 47% of Texas’ total power requirements. https://comptroller.texas.gov/economy/fiscal-notes/2020/august/ercot.php
Although California is the second most significant consumer of natural gas, it uses close to 54% less than Texas.
How does natural gas hurt the environment?
Natural gas is a fossil fuel, and like all fossil fuels, it emits greenhouse gas emissions when burned. Natural gas extraction emissions contribute to climate change, which is having a devastating impact on our planet.
In addition to its contribution to climate change, natural gas also has other environmental impacts. The extraction of natural gas can cause water pollution and habitat destruction. The burning of natural gas also releases air pollutants, which can harm human health.
Natural gas is extracted from wells, but drilling and transporting it in pipelines results in significant methane leakage. However, burning natural gas does produce fewer mercury, sulfur, and other particles than other fossil fuels. Natural gas also produces nitrogen oxides, which usually contribute to smog formation–but on a much smaller scale than gasoline and diesel.
Despite its environmental impacts, natural gas is still one of the least polluting fossil fuels. When burned, it emits 50-60% less carbon dioxide than coal https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/environmental-impacts-natural-gas. However, natural gas is not a renewable resource, so we need to find ways to use it more sustainably.
Natural gas is a cleaner option than other fossil fuels and is often a bridge toward renewable energy. In short, it’s relatively cheap and creates millions of jobs. However, it is still a greenhouse gas, even if it doesn’t remain in the atmosphere as long as CO₂ does. Therefore, it’s less than ideal for the environment, both directly and indirectly, due to methane leaks.
Can we produce a synthetic form of natural gas?
Natural gas deposits are running low and the amount of natural gas produced is less than what we are consuming. It is challenging to know if a man-made version of natural gas could exist because fossilization, which is necessary for the creation of natural gas, takes an immensely long time. Additionally, it is hard to tell if continuously creating more landfills and farms would be ecologically sustainable in the future.
That being said, there are some methods of producing methane synthetically in a laboratory. For example, one process involves using carbon dioxide and hydrogen to create methane through a chemical reaction. This reaction is called the Sabatier process, and it was first discovered in 1897https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/1912/sabatier/facts/.
While the Sabatier process can create methane, it is not efficient enough to be used on a large scale. Additionally, the process produces carbon dioxide as a by-product, which negates any environmental benefits.
Other methods of producing methane synthetically are being explored, but it is unclear if any of these will be viable on a large scale. For now, natural gas remains the only significant source of methane.
Who is taking the stand against natural gas?
More and more towns are taking a stand against natural gas–enacting medical, social, and/or political change. Several major cities have proposed or put into effect abandoning natural gas for home cooking and heating due to their near-constant concerns about climate change. To name only a few examples, San Francisco, New York City, and Denver have all done this in recent years.
Even though natural gas is one of the more environmentally friendly fossil fuels, it’s still classified as a fossil fuel. We can’t change that fact. However, what we can do is educate ourselves on our environmental impact and ways we could lower or eliminate it together. Additionally, society as a whole has been moving to renewable and clean energy sources in recent years which makes this conversation even more important.