Natural Gas Distribution Emissions Continue to Fall

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, showing that annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the natural gas distribution system declined 69 percent from 1990 to 2019. During this same period natural gas utility companies added more than 788,000 miles of pipeline to serve 21 million more customers. Distribution systems owned and operated by local natural gas utilities emit only 0.08 percent of produced natural gas.

The EPA report showing decreasing methane emissions from the natural gas system is more evidence that the industry is pro-actively and aggressively improving their carbon profile.

This continuing downward trend in greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas delivery system further shows the essential role Northwest gas utilities play in the region’s clean energy future.  The industry has been pro-actively adopting new technologies to reduce the emissions impacts of the gas sector, which compliments the Pacific Northwest’s overall climate policy goals.

Recognizing the imperative of decarbonization, the Pacific Northwest gas utilities and interstate pipeline companies are investing in carbon-free sources of gas such as renewable natural gas and green hydrogen, as well as improving the efficiency of natural gas appliances.

Natural gas, particularly direct-use appliances, are highly efficient and offer lower lifecycle GHG impacts than other products. Natural gas is a reliable and cost-effective fuel that is often the fuel of choice, representing billions of dollars in efficient and well-maintained infrastructure essential to important economic sectors in the Northwest, including food processors, nurseries, the wood products industry and manufacturers.

The EPA has developed and published its Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks for more than two decades. The EPA Inventory represents the most comprehensive assessment of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions available. The Inventory shows a low-methane emissions profile for natural gas distribution systems, shaped by an industry-wide natural gas emissions rate of production that is only 1.0 percent.

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