Quick Facts

  • Western natural gas is a powerful clean air tool. Using natural gas to produce electricity emits approximately half the carbon dioxide (CO2) of coal along with lower levels of other air pollutants.
  • In addition to low carbon emissions, natural gas is clean-burning and does not produce harmful mercury, soot, and sulfur emissions. Burning natural gas for electricity generation improves air quality and helps cities become compliant with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for SO2 and particulate matter.
  • Further reductions in the federal ozone standard will provide limited health benefits. Studies used by EPA in support of lowering the ozone standard to 70 parts per billion (ppb) do not support an association between ozone exposure and adverse respiratory impacts below 80 ppb.

Clearing the Air: Natural Gas Improves Our Air Quality

Increased natural gas use in the electric utility sector offers across the board emission reductions in criteria pollutants. In Pennsylvania alone, the reductions in criteria pollutants associated with increased natural gas use from 2008 to 2012 offered $14 billion to $37 billion in annual public health benefits. Greater natural gas helped Pennsylvania slash emissions of sulfur dioxide by 73%, nitrogen oxides by 23% and particulate matter by 46%. Natural gas also reduces air emissions when burned in engines in place of gasoline or diesel. Natural gas vehicles reduce carbon monoxide (CO) emissions by 75%, nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 50%, volatile organic compounds (VOC) by 55%, and particulate matter (PM) by 95% compared to gasoline engines. Burning natural gas for electricity generation improves air quality and helps cities become compliant with national air-quality standards. Industry has also made tremendous strides in reducing its emissions. Since 1990, methane emissions from oil and natural gas production have declined by 21% while production has soared.

Western Energy Alliance has been a regional leader in air quality for several years, engaging states, federal agencies, counties, and academia to provide credible data that advances scientific understanding of air quality and provides regulators with the information they need to sensibly improve air quality while enabling energy development. Our work includes a multiyear project with the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP) to develop regional air emissions inventories for each major production basin across the West, which was completed in 2013. The inventories are the primary source of information on industry emissions for state and federal regulators and academic institutions.

For several years, Western Energy Alliance also has been engaged in air quality research in Utah’s Uinta basin along with the State of Utah, NOAA, EPA, Utah State and other universities, and Uintah and Duchesne counties. For more information about our collaborative research on Uinta Basin ozone, visit our Uinta Basin Ozone Study page.

In addition to funding research and partnering with state and federal regulators, the oil and natural gas industry is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure to capture even more methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). To learn more about these investments, visit our Methane and Flaring pages.

Source: EPA Air Quality Trends