Natural gas offers significant advantages for electricity production.
Heat and power production from gas is very efficient when compared to generation from other fuels. Combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) technology uses the waste heat from the initial production cycle to produce steam, which can be used to produce electricity.
Combined heat and power (CHP) generation uses the waste heat that cannot be used for further electricity production to supply warmth to neighbouring industrial or household customers. Efficiency of a CHP plant running on waste heat can be as high as 85% to 90%.
In the commercial and residential sector gas is mainly used for space heating, water heating and cooking, but in the last decade new applications have also emerged. Comfort cooling, tumble dryers and micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP) are examples of new applications.
Micro-CHP is a technology that generates heat and electricity simultaneously, from the same energy source, and is increasingly used in individual homes or buildings. This technology is also advantageous for companies with a constant demand for both low temperature heat and electricity, such as hotels, hospitals and so on. Eventually households could even start to produce their own electricity using gas, with heat as a by-product, in a process of micro-generation. If more electricity is generated in the home than needed, it can be supplied to the grid. More solar power could also be used in combination with gas.
Gas boiler efficiencies have improved considerably during the last decades as a result of the operation of the manufacturers and the gas industry. Condensing boilers, which are now penetrating the European markets, make optimal use of the fuel due to the heat release by condensation of water vapour. This energy is otherwise wasted in conventional heating systems.
Energy savings reach up to 40% when replacing an old gas-fired boiler. In combination with the new generation of modulating and low NOx burners, gas technology offers the environmentally optimal solution for heating and hot water production.
Emission tests have demonstrated that gas-powered vehicles provide and economically viable and socially acceptable way of reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and significantly improving air quality. Even taking into account that methane emissions occur from non-optimised engines and catalyst systems, an independent test has demonstrated an overall percentage reduction in equivalent CO2 emissions of some 20% compared with petrol.
The use of gas either eliminates or dramatically reduces the range of toxic emissions associated with diesel and petrol engines. Gas use also provides a substantial reduction in ozone forming potential while significantly reducing other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides. Gas-fuelled vehicles are even capable of environmentally out-performing those powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) engines. Taking all factors into account there are substantial environmental benefits in the use of gas.