Co-Fueling Power Plants With Natural Gas Can Rapidly Cut GHG Emissions
Posted May 25, 2021
New, independent analysis says that the U.S. can rapidly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by using natural gas as a co-fuel at coal power plants – pointing to another reason domestic natural gas is key to a cleaner future.
The analysis by Resources for the Future (RFF) outlines how EPA could foster natural gas cofiring at coal plants to reduce emissions. Authors Maya Domeshek and Dallas Burtraw write that a modest cofiring standard at coal plants can reduce carbon emissions significantly and rapidly and that adding a cofiring standard to other national electricity policies also accelerates emissions reductions. The analysis:
Using its existing authority under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can jumpstart the Biden administration’s plan to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 52 percent and contribute important air quality benefits in this decade.
The chart below shows the profile of emissions from coal plants over 15 years for a 20% cofiring standard under three forms of regulation described in the RFF paper.
We’ve pointed out how increased natural gas use in the power sector is the leading factor in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions falling to levels not seen in a generation. API’s new Climate Action Framework also describes the important role natural gas has played and will play in advancing the nation’s climate goals. Adding natural gas as a fueling component at coal-fired plans would mean even more reductions in CO2 emissions, according to the RFF analysis.
Without endorsing RFF’s specific models, increasing natural gas use is part of a smart, practical path to meaningful emissions reductions, capitalizing on a domestic energy source that’s available, affordable and reliable.
Of course, any plan to cofire natural gas at coal power plants will require new or expanded natural gas infrastructure, including pipelines to get the natural gas to the plants. Unfortunately, in recent years projects including the Constitution and Atlantic Coast natural gas pipelines have been blocked – ironically, with a lot of help from environmentalists – denying natural gas to customers, including power plants.
It’s something Americans should think about when there are local, state and regional proposals to build or expand pipelines. Natural gas has significant environmental benefits, but to realize those benefits infrastructure is needed to bring the natural gas to where it can be used – such as for fueling electricity generation.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.