Natural Gas is More Efficient Than Coal-Fired Power Generation

November 14th, 2022

Two of the most prevalent sources of power generation in the United States are natural gas and coal. The modern, combined-cycle technology used by natural gas-fired power plants operates with around 30% to 35% greater efficiency, and can therefore compete effectively with coal.  

Although, coal-fired generation declined in the years between 2014 and 2020; it rose in 2021 by 16%, due to an increase in natural gas prices and a greater demand for electricity. In spite of higher prices, EIA expects natural gas-fired generation to moderately increase in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Principal emissions from burning coal

Coal combustion results in the following principal emissions:

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Particulates
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Mercury and other heavy metals
  • Fly ash and bottom ash

A huge percentage of negative impact on the environment comes from fossil fuels. It is true that all fossil fuels affect the environment in one way or the other, but natural gas is more efficient and cleaner than coal and oil. This is mostly because it produces fewer emissions that are harmful to the environment.  

Natural gas generates fewer harmful emissions

Emissions from natural gas are made up of carbon dioxide and water vapor. However, when advanced and more efficient power plants are used to burn natural gas, they give off between 50 and 60 percent less carbon dioxide than traditional coal plants and around 30 percent less than oil; which lessens the contribution of carbon dioxide, from natural gas plants, to air pollution. It is also a cleaner option because it gives off less nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide than oil.

Natural Gas Helps Other Alternative Energy Efforts

Not only is natural gas being used as a direct source of energy – contributing to President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 – it is also being used in other ways to produce clean energy. According to AGA, natural gas benefits the environment and can help address several concerns like acid rain, greenhouse gas emissions, and smog. Due to its molecular disposition, it can be used to create green materials like “light-weight cars, wind power blades, and solar panels.” Also, hydrogen power is being made from the methane in natural gas.

Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed in the blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Certrec. The content of this blog is meant for informational purposes only.