Natural Gas: Critical Component of Energy Consumption in U.S.
Natural gas is the cleanest burning conventional fuel. It produces 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 percent less than fuel oil. It emits no mercury, only trace amounts of sulfur dioxide and far less nitrogen oxide than other fossil fuels.
Natural gas is the most readily available, environmentally friendly and economical energy source available right here, right now. The use of natural gas to generate electricity continues to grow, and the fuel is also seen as a dependable backup for intermittent, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
Natural gas is transported from supply areas to consumers through pipelines. Interstate pipelines carry natural gas across state boundaries and are subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulation on (1) the rates charged for their services, (2) the terms and conditions of their services, and (3) the location, construction and abandonment of their facilities.
Intrastate pipelines transport natural gas within a particular state and are typically not subject to FERC regulation. At the close of 2004, based on data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. natural gas pipeline grid included 107 interstate systems and more than 90 intrastate systems. Collectively, they accounted for over 297,000 miles of pipeline with a combined 178 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas transportation capacity.
Natural gas is typically stored in underground storage facilities such as salt dome caverns and depleted reservoirs. Natural gas storage provides reliability of gas available for deliveries during peak times and weather conditions. Buyers also purchase natural gas when the price is low and store it for resale when prices rise.
Storage facilities are utilized by:
- Pipelines, to manage temporary imbalances in operations.
- Natural gas end-users, such as Local Distribution Companies, to manage the seasonality of demand and to satisfy future natural gas needs.
- Independent natural gas marketing and trading companies to "buy low and sell high."
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