The Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) has released a new report, “Natural Gas and the Transformation of the U.S. Energy Sector: Electricity.The study is said to provide a new approach to estimate natural gas related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, track trends in regulatory and voluntary industry practices, and explore various electricity futures. “There is a national debate over life cycle GHG emissions from shale natural gas,” NREL Senior Scientist Garvin Heath said. “We address it by conducting one of the first independent ‘bottoms up assessments’ in this field.”
JISEA, a consortium of five universities and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is said to provide credible data, tools, and analysis to help guide energy decisions as utilities, states, and nations transition to a sustainable energy future.
Published results of natural gas life cycle GHG emissions rely on limited data, include a broad range of analytic assumptions and have results that vary considerably. The JISEA study leverages inventories of air pollutant emissions from more than 16,000 sources in Texas’ Barnett Shale, providing the first estimate of life cycle GHG emissions using an independent data set.
The JISEA study found that life cycle GHG emissions associated with electricity generated from 2009 Barnett Shale gas were similar to conventional natural gas and less than half of those from coal-fired electricity generation.
JISEA also looked at how legal and regulatory frameworks governing shale gas development are changing in response to public concerns, particularly in areas of the country that have less experience with oil and gas development. “The report is intended to inform the national and international dialogue on this subject in a few key areas critical to decision makers,” said JISEA Executive Director Doug Arent.
All states examined in the study have updated their regulatory frameworks to address unconventional natural gas production. According to the study, better coordination among regulators might help encourage efficient and safe production, and greater availability of objective data might help address public concerns. “More transparency regarding industry and regulatory practices as well as better information sharing across jurisdictions will help to foster a fact-based discussion regarding how and at what level the industry should be regulated,” said William Boyd, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Law School, who led the legal and regulatory team. The study also notes that company practices can complement and supplement regulations at the national, state, and local levels.
A number of future electric power scenarios were also evaluated to test the implications of different natural gas production and prices, policy, and technology changes through 2050. Scenarios focused on power plant retirements, advancements in generation technologies, federal policies to reduce GHG emissions, and variations in natural gas supply and demand. Many of the scenarios painted a larger role for natural gas, although the study also documented exceptions.
“We found that the potential evolution of the U.S. power sector will depend on policy, natural gas and other fuel prices, and technology innovation,” NREL Senior Analyst and lead author Jeff Logan said. “In longer term scenarios, natural gas can complement other power generation resources such as renewables or carbon capture and storage, and help support a more sustainable power sector.”
The JISEA conducts leading-edge interdisciplinary research and provides objective and credible data, tools, and analysis to guide global energy investment and policy decisions. The Institute focuses on providing leading analysis; guiding decisions on energy, investment, and policy; and answering questions that enable a cost-effective transition to sustainable energy at significant speed and scale, while minimizing unintended impacts.
JISEA is operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, the Colorado State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.