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Comprehensive Study Shows Decreasing Emissions from Local Natural Gas Distribution Systems

Washington, D.C. – A study published today in Environmental Science & Technology led by a team from Washington State University (WSU) found that emissions from local natural gas distribution systems in cities and towns throughout the U.S. have decreased in the past 20 years, to levels 36 to 70 percent lower than current estimates. This reduction reflects significant upgrades at metering and regulating stations, improvements in leak detection and maintenance activities and replacement of older pipeline materials.

“A concerted effort by natural gas utilities to upgrade our nation’s pipeline network in order to enhance safety has contributed significantly to a declining trend in emissions from the natural gas distribution system,” said AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy. “Natural gas utilities are leading a fact-based dialogue about our nation’s energy future. Better data informs that conversation and help us to continually improve the delivery of natural gas to homes and businesses safely and reliably.”

Led by Regents Professor Brian Lamb in WSU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Research with assistance from Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, an engineering and environmental consulting firm, the study provides the most comprehensive set yet of direct measurements of emissions from the distribution system. They estimate that emissions from the distribution system range from approximately 393 to 854 gigagrams per year, which is between 0.1 and 0.2 percent of the natural gas delivered nationwide.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks currently uses data collected in the 1990s in a study sponsored by the Gas Research Institute and the EPA. The WSU researchers found dramatically lower emissions, particularly, at metering and regulating (M&R) stations. In fact, because of the significant differences they saw from data from the early 1990s, the researchers revisited nine sites from the previous study and found an average of one-twelfth fewer emissions than 20 years ago from those M&R stations. The researchers also measured reductions in emissions from individual pipeline leaks as compared to earlier studies.

“Because of its abundance and inherent efficiency, natural gas is a foundation fuel for our nation’s clean and secure energy future. Safety is our top priority and as we strive to make our systems safer by upgrading and modernizing our infrastructure we are also making them cleaner,” said McCurdy.

Results from the study by WSU suggest that the number of pipeline leaks have decreased 25 percent for mains and 16 percent for services due to the use of better pipe materials, efforts to seal cast iron joints, and enhanced leak detection and repair procedures.

Since 1990, natural gas utilities have installed modern plastic pipes at a rate of 30,000 miles per year and installed cathodically protected coated steel mains at 1,500 miles per year, both connecting new customers and upgrading existing pipeline infrastructure. They have also added nearly 600,000 miles of distribution mains and service lines to serve 17.5 million additional customers. Pipes that may no longer be fit for service are being replaced with ones made from more modern materials.

Decisions to replace pipe are rooted in enhanced risk-based integrity management programs. America’s natural gas utilities work with their state regulators, legislators and other key stakeholders to advance important safety policies that both enhance system integrity and support increased access to natural gas service for homes and businesses.

AGA and many of its member companies were involved in the development of, and have been partners in the EPA’s Natural Gas STAR program since its inception in 1993, and the industry is working with EPA to develop a new voluntary Gold STAR certification for the natural gas distribution sector. In May 2014, the AGA Board of Directors also approved a set of voluntary guidelines for the purpose of further emissions reductions.

Dr. Lamb’s project is part of a group of ongoing studies that are looking at the entire natural gas supply chain, from the production wells to the transmission pipeline system to local distribution systems. The study was done in coordination with major natural gas utilities and the Environmental Defense Fund.

As part of the study, the research team carefully measured numerous sites selected from lists of known leaks provided by the twelve participating utilities in various regions around the country that met specific criteria to ensure a comprehensive and representative dataset. The researchers took direct emissions measurements of 230 randomly selected, representative leaks from underground pipelines as well as at 229 metering and regulating stations where natural gas is measured and regulated from higher pressure pipelines to lower pressure distribution pipelines.

The group also used different methods than in the previous study, which Lamb believes results in a more accurate assessment of the actual emissions. The researchers made twice as many measurements as in the previous study and carefully checked their results with back-up methods.

DOE Study: Choosing Natural Gas Appliances Can Double Energy Savings

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) today announced that residential customers could cut their annual heating costs nearly in half by choosing natural gas appliances. These findings come with the release of AGA’s 2014 Representative Average Residential Space Heating and Water Heating Costs analysis, which compare average annual costs for various types of space and water heating appliances. According to estimates, customers can save up to $1,262 on space heating and more than $300 on water heating costs annually by using appliances powered by natural gas instead of other common energy choices. The cost comparisons are based on the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Representative Average Unit Costs of Energy notice as published in the Federal Register on March 18, 2014. After a winter marked by sustained cold and record energy demand, this information can help Americans to better understand how to meet their energy needs.

“These numbers show that natural gas is the clear choice for consumers looking to save on home heating costs,” said AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy. “Choosing natural gas means you don’t have to choose between your wallet and the environment. This is because the direct use of natural gas in home appliances is the clean, efficient choice, achieving 92 percent energy efficiency and producing nearly 40 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a home with all-electric appliances.”

America’s natural gas utilities are dedicated to helping their customers achieve even greater savings. In 2012, natural gas utilities spent $1.1 billion on efficiency programs, providing valuable tools, incentives and information to help their customers understand and reduce their energy usage. Many in the nation continue to struggle to pay their energy bills, and these resources, along with assistance to low income customers provided by utilities and government programs such as LIHEAP, are essential to ensuring that no American needs to choose between energy and other basic needs.

A piece of equipment with a higher annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating provides greater savings for customers. For example, a 97 percent AFUE natural gas furnace provides the lowest cost space heating option for homeowners, followed by an 80 percent AFUE natural gas furnace. Both offer significant annual operating cost savings over comparable space heating options.

The tables below demonstrate estimated cost comparisons for home and water heating devices.

SPACE HEATING ANALYSIS SUMMARY: The space heating analysis is based on a 2,072 square foot house located in St. Louis and represents a 5,000 Heating Degree Day location. The house meets the energy conservation provisions in the 2012 International Residential Code and the space heating equipment is selected from the AHRI online directory. The 97 percent AFUE natural gas furnace provides the lowest annual operating cost followed by the 80 percent AFUE gas furnace.

 

2014 Space Heating Annual Cost Summary

(Annual Operating Cost)

 

Heating Equipment Type 5000 Heating Degree Days
97% AFUE Gas Furnace $544
80% AFUE Gas Furnace $714
7.7 HSPF Electric Heat Pump $1,029
97% AFUE Propane Furnace $1,409
87% AFUE Oil Furnace $1,500
80% AFUE Propane Furnace $1,793
80% AFUE Oil Furnace $1,614
Electric Resistance Furnace $1,806

 

WATER HEATER ANALYSIS SUMMARY: The water heater analysis is based on the equivalent First Hour Rating (FHR), national average energy usage, and the 2014 energy costs as published by DOE. A natural gas 40-gallon and an electric 50-gallon, both conventional storage types, are chosen based on their FHR. The natural gas water heater would provide the lowest annual operating cost.

 

2014 Water Heating Annual Cost Summary

(Annual Operating Cost from Low to High)

Water Heater Type Annual Cost
40 Gallon Natural Gas (FHR = 74 gallons) $275
50 Gallon Electric (FHR = 67 gallons) $576

 

COMBINATION SPACE HEATING AND WATER HEATER INSTALLATION: Based on the annual cost analysis for space heating and water heaters, the combination of a natural gas 97% AFUE furnace and storage water heater provides the lowest operating cost space/water heating package.

 

2014 Space Heating with Water Heater Installations

(Annual Operating Cost from Low to High)

 

Space Heating/ Water Heating Type Annual Cost
Natural Gas: 97% AFUE Furnace & Water Heater $819
Natural Gas: 80% AFUE & Water Heater $989
Electric: Heat Pump & Water Heater $1,605

 

About the American Gas Association

The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 71 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 92 percent — more than 65 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets almost one-fourth of the United States’ energy needs.

 

 

AGA Releases 2014 Natural Gas Playbook

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) today released its 2014 Playbook, the essential handbook for understanding natural gas and how it can help achieve our nation’s economic, environmental and energy security goals. The 2014 Playbook contains the latest facts and data surrounding natural gas and its role in American life, including information about pipeline safety, supply and use, responsible resource development, economic benefits, emissions and energy efficiency.

“America’s abundance of clean, domestic, reliable and affordable natural gas provides a tremendous opportunity for our nation,” said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of AGA. “The Playbook is a vital resource for policymakers, regulators, media and anyone seeking to engage in a fact-based conversation about the realities of natural gas and its role as a foundation fuel in a clean and secure energy future.”

The 2014 Playbook covers the history and properties of natural gas, its role throughout all sectors of the American economy including transportation, statistics about natural gas use, the natural gas industry’s commitment to enhancing safety, and the priority issues and strategies with respect to the production, transmission, distribution and increased use of America’s clean and domestically abundant energy source. It also contains facts and information about industry innovation and direct economic benefits including customer savings and industry-related job growth.

“America’s local natural gas utilities have a longstanding record of safely and reliably delivering natural gas to homes and businesses throughout the nation,” McCurdy continued. “With nearly a century of expertise, AGA and its member companies are a trusted resource for natural gas information, and will lead the way for helping to ensure that all Americans can have access to the benefits of this incredible resource.”

The 2014 Playbook can be accessed online.

Low Natural Gas Prices Helping to Keep Customers Connected

Washington, D.C. – In cities and towns across the country, Americans are saving money and enjoying a better quality of life thanks to the nation’s abundant supply of clean, domestic natural gas delivered by local natural gas utilities. This year, according to a survey of American Gas Association member companies, the number of customers disconnected from their utility service fell by more than eight percent, indicating that the low price of natural gas is allowing more people to access the energy they need. Additionally, the total amount owed by natural gas customers fell by nearly 15 percent.

“Natural gas plays a key role in rebuilding our nation’s economy by saving money for homes and businesses and keeping our most vulnerable citizens from having to go without essential energy,” said AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy. “The low price of natural gas also creates jobs, is boosting the manufacturing and chemical industries and is a driver for infrastructure expansion while offering tremendous value to the 177 million Americans who use it every day.”

Prices for natural gas this winter were nearly two percent lower compared to the year before, according to the Energy Information Administration, but the improvement in disconnect rates can also be attributed to the combination of an improving economy and assistance from federal, state and utility energy efficiency programs that all helped more households stay current on their bills.

Low domestic prices of natural gas have led to savings of almost $35 billion for residential natural gas customers over the past three years. Households that use natural gas appliances for heating, water heating, cooking and clothes drying spend an average of $654 less per year than homes using electricity for those applications. These savings are achieved not just through the comparatively low price point of natural gas, but also due to the efficiency of the delivery network operated by natural gas utilities. The direct use of natural gas maintains about 92 percent of its usable energy from production to the customer.

Natural gas utilities are committed to helping customers achieve even greater energy savings by investing heavily in energy efficiency programs. In 2011, natural gas utilities created total savings of more than $300 million for customers – about $107 per household – and offset 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Still, the need for fuel assistance in this country remains great, and many customers struggle to make ends meet. The latest U.S. Census data shows that the poverty rate in 2012 was 15 percent – meaning about 46.5 million Americans lived in poverty. While overall disconnects are down, the number of customers who are at least 30 days late in paying their utility bills stayed stable compared to last year and accounts for more than 18 percent of customers. The Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is an essential federal program that can help ensure no Americans go without heat in winter or air conditioning in summer. To date, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $3.61 billion for LIHEAP in FY 2014. The House Appropriations Committee, however, has yet to set FY 2014 LIHEAP funding levels. While recognizing that Congress faces difficult decisions given the current fiscal climate, AGA continues to call for action ensuring responsible funding levels for LIHEAP. Greater certainty for overall LIHEAP funding and distribution timing is crucial to ensuring that states can plan budgets and receive funds necessary to provide assistance to Americans in need.

More than Half a Million Northeast Homes Switched to Natural Gas Heat from 2000-2010

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) estimates that more than half a million housing units in the Northeast switched from oil to natural gas for their primary heating fuel from 2000-2010. This estimate comes from AGA’s report, Residential Space Heating Changes in the Northeast, 2000-2010, which was compiled using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. AGA examined 217 U.S. northeastern counties for changes in home heating fuel between 2000 and 2010 and found that natural gas conversions topped those of all other fuels combined during that decade.

“Over 177 million Americans throughout the nation rely on clean natural gas to meet the daily needs of modern life, whether it’s to heat their homes, provide a hot shower or cook a meal,” said AGA president and CEO Dave McCurdy. “Our domestic abundance of natural gas has led to an era of market stability that translates to a difference our customers can see in their pockets. This report shows that customers recognize the value of natural gas as an affordable, efficient, safe and reliable energy choice.”

America’s natural gas delivery system is extraordinarily efficient, with 92 percent of the natural gas produced at the wellhead being delivered to customers as usable energy. Combined with comparatively low prices and a lower emissions profile, this means that direct use of natural gas results in substantial savings in dollars and greenhouse gas emissions. Nationwide, customers who heated their homes with natural gas during the 2011-2012 winter heating season saw average savings of 70 percent compared to those using heating oil, and more than 32 percent compared to homes heated with electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration. Natural gas utilities also make significant investments in energy efficiency programs to help customers reduce energy use, thereby saving their customers across the United States more than $300 million in 2011 – about $107 per household.

Homes heated with natural gas also made up the largest share of new single family housing unit construction from 2000-2012. Much of the increase in natural gas-heated homes can be attributed to infrastructure growth of utility gas systems in the Northeast. Greater infrastructure investment in this region and the expansion of natural gas lines to potential customers could further facilitate the conversion of the more than six million housing units in the area that are not yet heated by natural gas.

America’s natural gas utilities operate over two million miles of pipeline throughout the United States – the safest, most reliable energy delivery system in the country. Utilities invest more than $7 billion annually to help enhance safety, upgrade systems and expand service so that more Americans can access this foundation fuel. Further expansion will create greater opportunity for leveraging the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas and achieving our nation’s goal of a more secure energy future.

“America’s natural gas utilities want all Americans to have access to the benefits of natural gas,” said McCurdy. “We are committed to making investments and encouraging policies that boost the growth of the natural gas delivery system to service new homes and businesses, and to help spur economic development in every state.”

U.S. Domestic Natural Gas Resources at Record Levels

Washington, DC – The American Gas Association (AGA), in coordination with the Potential Gas Committee (PGC), today released the PGC’s year-end 2012 biennial report: Potential Supply of Natural Gas in the United States. The new assessment finds that the United States possesses a technically recoverable natural gas resource potential of 2,384 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). This is the highest resource evaluation in the PGC’s 48 year history—exceeding by 486 Tcf the previous record-high assessment from year-end 2010.

“This ground up, science-based assessment emphasizes our nation’s robust supply of natural gas, and confirms that we can continue to rely on abundant, clean natural gas for our future energy needs,” said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of AGA. “By investing in our energy future and harnessing the promises of this resource, we can look forward to decades of market stability – and that’s great news for our customers.”

The future supply of domestic natural gas continues to grow due to the emergence and advancement of key technologies that are able to unlock gas production from reservoirs such as shale formations. For the next decade and beyond, domestic natural gas supplies are expected to be high enough to support an increase in demand across all sectors – unlocking the door for expansion in residential, business, transportation and commercial and industrial applications.

When the PGC’s results are combined with the U.S. Department of Energy’s latest available determination of proved dry-gas reserves — 304.6 Tcf as of year-end 2010 — the United States has a total available future supply of 2,688.5 Tcf, an increase of 486.1 Tcf over the previous evaluation.

The PGC’s year-end 2012 assessment of 2,384 Tcf includes 2,226 Tcf of gas attributable to “traditional” reservoirs (conventional, tight sands and carbonates, and shales) and 158 Tcf in coalbed reservoirs.

“The PGC’s year-end 2012 assessment reaffirms the committee’s conviction that abundant, recoverable natural gas resources exist within our borders, both onshore and offshore, and in all types of reservoirs—from conventional, ‘tight’ and shales, to coals,” said Dr. John B. Curtis, professor of Geology and Geological Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and Director of its Potential Gas Agency, which provides guidance and technical assistance to the Potential Gas Committee.

“Every day, America’s natural gas utilities deliver clean, domestic natural gas to more than 65 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers,” said McCurdy. “Natural gas can help improve our economy, national security and the environment – and this assessment shows we have the necessary resource abundance to help make those goals a reality for our nation. We appreciate and welcome the fact-based, time-tested objective work that the PGC and its members have put into developing this valuable report.”

AGA Chairman Jibson Outlines how Natural Gas can help Address National Priorities

New York, NY – America’s natural gas utilities are at the forefront of an energy revolution, delivering exceptional value to their customers, shareholders and our nation. Ron Jibson, Chairman of the American Gas Association spoke today to the New York Society of Security Analysts where he outlined how America’s domestic abundance of this clean energy source will transform the way we use energy and help address many of our national priorities including boosting our economy.

“Domestic natural gas supplies are expected to be sufficiently robust to meet even significant growth in demand across all sectors at reasonable and relatively stable prices for the next decade and beyond,” said Jibson. “America’s natural gas utilities operate the largest and most efficient energy delivery system in the world, capable of continuing to deliver this fuel safely and reliably throughout the United States. With the tremendous advances being made in direct and distributed use in homes, businesses, industry and vehicles, everyone can have access to the promises of natural gas.”

AGA believes it is possible for the United States to produce more than 80 Bcf of natural gas per day by 2022 if demand requirements develop to require such production growth. Affordable prices and a future of market stability provide an opportunity to make long-term investments throughout the natural gas value chain. These investments create jobs and improve the safety and reliability of our infrastructure for years to come.

Mr. Jibson, who is chairman, president and CEO of Questar Corporation (NYSE: STR) in Salt Lake City, made the financial case for investing in local natural gas utilities, highlighting the financial strength and growth opportunities in the energy utility sector as demonstrated in the performance of the Hennessy Gas Utility Index Fund (MUTF: GASFX) against the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Utilities Average over the past 10 years.

Mr. Jibson also mentioned the American Taxpayer Relief Act that enacted low tax rates for dividends permanent which will help utilities expand and rebuild critical infrastructure, in turn, helping to meet the nation’s energy needs. Most AGA members have paid dividends continuously for more than 50 years.

American Gas Association Releases 2013 AGA Playbook

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) today released the 2013 Playbook, the essential handbook for natural gas information. The 2013 Playbook includes up-to-date facts about natural gas, including information about pipeline safety, supply, responsible resource development and energy efficiency.

“Thanks to an unprecedented abundance of domestic natural gas, this affordable resource is changing the energy industry and our nation’s economy. It is no surprise that there is a lot of attention focused on this clean, domestic, abundant foundation fuel,” said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of AGA. “We update the Playbook each year because it is imperative we provide the facts and help inform policy makers, media and the public about the realities of natural gas. The 2013 AGA Playbook will help make sure people have access to a current, fact-based narrative about the natural gas industry.”

The 2013 Playbook covers the history of natural gas, the challenges and opportunities of the natural gas industry, and the priority issues and strategies with respect to the production, transmission, distribution and use of America’s clean and domestically abundant energy source. It also contains information about innovation and direct economic benefits including industry-related jobs.

McCurdy continued, “AGA’s Playbook outlines how natural gas can deliver on the promises of helping increase our energy security, improve our environment and boost our economy. America’s natural gas utilities are delivering these promises today, and increased use of this foundation fuel can help address many of the energy challenges facing our nation.”

The 2013 Playbook can be accessed online. If you are interested in hard copies, please contact Sherri Hamm at shamm@aga.org or 202-824-7201.

DOE Report Affirms Role of Natural Gas as Foundation Fuel

Washington, D.C. – A recent report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) entitled “Macroeconomic Impacts of LNG Exports from the United States” affirms the position of natural gas as a foundation fuel for the United States and the nation’s energy future. The American Gas Association (AGA) is encouraged to see DOE examining the important role that natural gas will serve in our nation’s energy and economic future. 

“The Department of Energy study acknowledges the tremendous impact our domestic abundance of natural gas is having on energy markets at home and abroad. Natural gas already provides one-fourth of our nation’s energy. With natural gas as a foundation fuel for a clean and secure energy portfolio, we can meet our national goals of boosting our economy, improving our environment and increasing our energy security,” said AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy.

“The report states that our nation’s natural gas resource base is able to satisfy existing and new markets at very competitive prices. DOE analysis indicates that U.S. exports of natural gas would allow for continued stable pricing for the 177 million Americans who depend on the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas every day.”

“We envision a future where natural gas not only provides energy for homes and businesses, but runs a significant number of our vehicles, generates power and supports other forms of renewable energy. America’s natural gas utilities will continue to provide safe and reliable service to our customers today while building the 21st century infrastructure necessary to serve the nation’s energy needs tomorrow. ”