February 28, 2007
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Global Climate Change Digest
A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999
FROM VOLUME 2, NUMBER 10, OCTOBER 1989
NATURAL GAS VS. OIL, COAL
Following are several recent, related reports addressing the contributions
to production of various greenhouse gases resulting from the entire process of
obtaining, processing, distributing and using these three fossil fuels.
Relative Greenhouse Heating from the Use of Fuel Oil and the Use
of Natural Gas, D. Abrahamson (Public Affairs, Univ. Minn.), 50 pp., June
1989. Request from Oil Heat Task Force, c/o New England Fuel Inst., POB 888,
Watertown MA 02272 (617-924-1000).
While combustion of natural gas produces less carbon dioxide than combustion
of fuel oil, leakage in natural gas distribution systems releases methane, which
has a much larger greenhouse heating potential than carbon dioxide. Using
government and industry data on production and transportation of natural gas,
this study estimates that if total leakage exceeds 1-2%, the resulting
greenhouse heating exceeds that from the use of fuel oil. Based on aggregate
U.S. data, leakage is about 0.13%; if the maximum amount of gas reported "lost
and unaccounted for" is included, leakage would be 6%, leading to at least
twice as much total greenhouse heating as from fuel oil. Stabilization of
greenhouse heating from methane emissions may best be achieved by limiting
venting and leakage associated with natural gas use.
CH4/CO Emission from Fossil Fuels: Global Warming Potential,
P.A. Okram, T. Kram, 29 pp., June 1989. Energy Study Ctr., Netherlands Energy
Res. Foundation, POB 1, 1755 ZG Petten, Neth. (tel: NL-2246-4347).
Considers whether methane and carbon monoxide (CH4/CO) emissions from
natural gas systems, in large part from leakage, can offset the lower carbon
dioxide emissions of natural gas combustion compared to those of fuel oil and
coal. A sensitivity and uncertainty analysis is presented for the estimated
global warming potential of (CH4/CO), which incorporates many uncertainties.
Concludes that the relative global warming potentials (considering all
contributions associated with production and distribution of each fuel) are the
same as for direct carbon dioxide release alone: natural gas least, followed by
oil and then coal.
The American Gas Association has issued several documents recently,
which include a brief rebuttal of the Abrahamson study above. All are available
at no charge from AGA Planning & Analysis, 1515 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA
Comments on Relative Greenhouse Heating from the Use of Fuel Oil and the
Use of Natural Gas, 3 pp., Aug. 1989. The AGA disputes that significant
leakage of methane occurs from gas industry operations, and challenges the large
value of greenhouse warming potential of methane compared to carbon dioxide used
in the study.
Natural Gas and Climate Change: The Greenhouse Effect (Issue Brief
89-7), 16 pp., June 1989. Argues that natural gas is superior to other fossil
fuels from the standpoint of greenhouse gas production, for both stationary and
mobile applications. Its use in conjunction with other fuels also reduces their
emissions of other gases, such as reactive hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide,
which contribute to formation of the greenhouse gas ozone. Concludes that
encouraging the use of natural gas offers a cost-effective element of any
greenhouse response strategy.
Identification of Errors in Science Concepts Inc. Greenhouse Paper
(Issue Brief 1989-13), 9 pp., Aug. 1989. A critical discussion pointing out
methodological errors in a report (Indirect Sources of Greenhouse Gases in
the Energy Sector, Science Concepts Inc., Washington, D.C., June 1989),
which concluded that the global warming advantages of natural gas are outweighed
by the impact of leakage in distribution systems. According to Science Concepts
(202-659-4977), that report is in revision and unavailable at present.
Global Climate Change and Emerging Technologies for Electric Utilities:
The Role of Natural Gas, N.E. Hay, P.M. Wilkinson, W.M. James, 32 pp., 1988.
Prepared as input to U.S. EPA's policy option study, this white paper finds that
natural gas use can minimize pollution by greenhouse and acid precursor gases,
and contribute to a least-cost national energy strategy.
The Role of Methane in Tropospheric Chemistry, D.S. Golomb
(MIT Energy Lab., Cambridge, Mass.), 16 pp., Mar. 1989. Order Cat. No. F00799
from American Gas Assoc. (address immed. above; 703-841-8558), $30 nonmembers,
From a detailed analysis of the reactions of methane with atmospheric
species, the authors conclude that it does play a role in generating the general
background of global tropospheric ozone (a greenhouse gas), but plays only a
minor role in urban and rural ozone formation.
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