For a natural gas field in North Texas that barely existed 10 years ago, the Barnett Shale demonstrates a compelling case for drilling. Did you know that the number of natural gas wells that are producing, or have produced, natural gas in the Barnett Shale is 15,675 according to the Powell Shale Digest and the Railroad Commission of Texas. In 2010, the time period that the report covers, these 15,000+ wells were producing a total of almost 5.5 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. That is a whopping 8.5% of total natural gas production in the United States, based on 2010 production numbers from the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The success of the Barnett Shale has spurred the exploration and production of several shale gas fields in the U. S., which has led to statements from many that the U.S. holds about 100 years of natural gas at current rates of consumption. And, all of this natural gas offers the possibility of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and cleaning up our air at the same time.
Wondering how that might be true? One example is tied to the need to build more natural gas-fired electricity plants to power electric vehicles that many expect to become popular. The necessary electricity has to come from somewhere and natural gas emits one-third to one-half of the air pollutants as coal and no mercury. If the coal-fired electric plants in and south of the DFW area were replaced with natural gas, the ozone levels in DFW would be improved.
Another way of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and cleaning up the air is to switch to more cars and trucks running on compressed natural gas (CNG). T. Boone Pickens says that in seven years, “we could cut our dependence on OPEC in half, to 2.5 million barrels a day,” by switching cars and trucks to natural gas. This is why President Obama’s new energy platform and Congress bill HR 1380 is encouraging natural gas for cars and trucks.
Consider these facts about natural gas vehicles from NGV America:
- Natural gas is the cleanest burning alternative transportation fuel commercially available today. Per unit of energy, natural gas contains less carbon than any other fossil fuel, and thus produces lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per vehicle mile traveled.
- Natural gas primarily consists of methane. Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon molecule made up of one atom of carbon and four of hydrogen (CH4). It is lighter than air and burns almost completely, with by-products of combustion being carbon dioxide and water.
- When used as transportation fuel, natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20–29 percent compared with diesel and gasoline fueled vehicles, respectively, according to studies by the California Air Resources Board and other organizations.
- Other reductions in air pollutants are:
- Carbon monoxide (CO) by 70–90 percent
- Non-methane organic gas (NMOG) by 50–75 percent
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 75–95 percent
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) by 20–30 percent
When you examine the facts, it’s difficult not to get excited about the potential for natural gas usage and improvement of the environment. To promote the use of natural gas vehicles in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, in cooperation with the TCU Energy Institute, started the Metroplex CNG Vehicle Coalition two years ago. This Coalition now has more than 60 members. BSEEC is also a member of the North Texas Clean Air Coalition which is a nonprofit organization in the region dedicated solely to encouraging voluntary efforts to improve air quality in North Texas through educating, engaging and recognizing the business community.
When it comes to the opportunities for natural gas, we’re convinced about the benefits of this solution to improve air quality and utilize resources we have in abundance.
Originally posted May 3, 2011.