What are the Pros and Cons of Natural Gas

What are the Pros and Cons of Natural Gas

Natural gas has emerged as a significant player in the energy sector, offering several advantages as well as drawbacks. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of natural gas, shedding light on its impact on the environment, economy, and energy security.


As the demand for cleaner and more sustainable energy sources increases, natural gas has gained prominence due to its relatively lower carbon footprint compared to other fossil fuels. However, like any energy source, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Let’s delve deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of natural gas.

Understanding Natural Gas

Definition and Composition

Natural gas is a fossil fuel primarily composed of methane (CH4) and small amounts of other hydrocarbons. It is formed through the decay of organic matter deep within the Earth’s crust over millions of years. This clean-burning fuel is often found alongside oil deposits or within coal beds.

Extraction and Production

The extraction of natural gas involves drilling wells into underground reservoirs. The gas is then brought to the surface using various methods such as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) or conventional drilling techniques. Once extracted, it undergoes processing to remove impurities before being transported through pipelines or converted to liquefied natural gas (LNG) for easier storage and transportation.

Advantages of Natural Gas

Cleaner Energy Source

Compared to coal and oil, natural gas combustion emits lower levels of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. It produces significantly fewer sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter. Natural gas power plants contribute to improved air quality and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Abundance and Accessibility

Natural gas reserves are abundant worldwide, ensuring a reliable and accessible energy source for years to come. This availability contributes to energy security by reducing dependence on foreign oil imports and stabilizing energy prices.

Versatility and Efficiency

Natural gas is a versatile fuel that can be used for various purposes. It serves as a primary energy source for electricity generation, heating homes and buildings, and fueling industrial processes. Additionally, natural gas power plants can achieve high energy conversion efficiencies, making them more efficient than many other forms of power generation.

Disadvantages of Natural Gas

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

While natural gas emits fewer greenhouse gases during combustion than coal or oil, methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas in itself. Methane leakage during extraction, production, and transportation can undermine its potential climate benefits. Strict monitoring and mitigation measures are necessary to minimize methane emissions.

Environmental Concerns

The extraction of natural gas through fracking has raised concerns about water contamination, earthquakes, and the disruption of ecosystems. Proper regulatory frameworks and responsible drilling practices are crucial to mitigate these environmental risks.

Safety Risks

Natural gas is highly flammable, and leaks can pose safety hazards. Accidental explosions or fires can occur if proper safety measures are not in place. Regular maintenance of infrastructure and adherence to safety protocols are essential to prevent accidents.

Impact on Economy and Energy Security

The use of natural gas has a significant impact on the economy and energy security of a nation. Its abundance and affordability contribute to economic growth and job creation. Moreover, countries with access to domestic natural gas resources can reduce their dependence on imported energy sources, enhancing their energy security and reducing geopolitical risks.

Future Outlook

The future of natural gas depends on advancements in renewable energy technologies and the global commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Transitioning to renewable energy sources is essential for long-term sustainability. However, natural gas can play a transitional role by complementing intermittent renewable energy sources and providing a backup power supply.

How does Natural Gas Work

Natural gas is a versatile fuel used for a variety of purposes including power generation, heating, and industrial processes. Here’s how natural gas works:

Extraction: Natural gas is extracted from underground reservoirs through drilling wells. These reservoirs can be located on land or offshore. Natural gas can be found alongside oil deposits or within coal beds.

Processing: Once extracted, raw natural gas undergoes processing to remove impurities such as water, sulfur compounds, and other contaminants. This purification process ensures that the natural gas meets quality standards and is safe to transport and use.

Transportation: Natural gas is transported from production sites to consumers through an extensive network of pipelines. These pipelines can cover long distances and connect different regions. The pressure within pipelines helps move natural gas efficiently to its destination.

Storage: Natural gas can also be stored for future use. This is particularly important to ensure a continuous supply during periods of high demand or when transport infrastructure is limited. Natural gas can be stored as liquefied natural gas (LNG) in underground storage facilities or in special storage tanks.

Uses: Once natural gas reaches end users, it is used in a variety of ways depending on the specific application. Some common uses include:

Electricity generation: Natural gas can be used in power plants to generate electricity. It is burned in a combustion turbine or combined-cycle power plant, where the heat generated is converted into mechanical energy and then into electrical energy.

Heating: Natural gas is commonly used for residential, commercial, and industrial heating purposes. It can power furnaces, boilers, and water heaters while providing efficient and reliable heat.

Industrial Processes: Many industries use natural gas as fuel for their processes, such as manufacturing, food processing, and chemical production. It provides a clean and efficient source of heat for a wide variety of industrial applications.

Combustion: When natural gas ignites, it burns, releasing energy in the form of heat. This heat can be used to generate electricity or for heating purposes.

Environmental Impact: While the combustion of natural gas produces fewer emissions than coal and oil, it is important to monitor and reduce methane leakage in the natural gas supply chain. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas, and its release can contribute to climate change.

In short, natural gas is extracted, processed, transported, stored, and then used for a variety of applications including power generation, heating, and industrial processes. Its clean burning properties and versatility make it a valuable energy source, but it is important to remove and mitigate any associated environmental concerns.

Natural Gas is Extremely Reliable

Natural gas is widely recognized as an extremely reliable source of energy. There are several reasons why natural gas is considered reliable:

  1. Abundant and Accessible Reserves: Natural gas reserves are abundant worldwide, ensuring a consistent and ample supply of this energy source. These reserves are accessible in various regions, both on land and offshore, which reduces the risk of supply disruptions.
  2. Diverse Production Sources: Natural gas can be sourced from a variety of locations and methods. It can be extracted from conventional wells, as well as unconventional sources like shale formations through hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). This diversity of production sources helps to mitigate the risks associated with relying on a single location for supply.
  3. Stable Production and Delivery Infrastructure: Natural gas production and delivery infrastructure, including pipelines, storage facilities, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, are well-established and highly reliable. The extensive pipeline network ensures efficient transportation, while storage facilities provide flexibility to balance supply and demand fluctuations.
  4. Continuous Supply: Natural gas can be stored for future use, allowing for a continuous supply even during periods of high demand or unforeseen disruptions. This storage capability helps to maintain a stable and reliable energy supply throughout the year, particularly during peak demand seasons or extreme weather conditions.
  5. Consistent Delivery to End Users: Natural gas is delivered directly to end users, such as residential, commercial, and industrial consumers, through a dedicated network of pipelines. This ensures a reliable and uninterrupted supply of natural gas for heating, electricity generation, and various industrial processes.
  6. Backup Power Generation: Natural gas power plants can serve as reliable backup sources of electricity. They can be quickly dispatched to provide electricity during times of high demand or when there is a temporary shortfall in supply from other sources, ensuring a reliable power grid.
  7. Redundancy and Flexibility: Natural gas infrastructure is designed with redundancy and flexibility in mind. This means that alternative routes and multiple delivery options can be utilized if there are any disruptions in a specific pipeline or production source. This enhances the resilience and reliability of the natural gas supply system.

Due to these factors, natural gas has gained a reputation for its high reliability, making it an important component of the global energy mix. Its continuous supply, diverse production sources, and robust infrastructure contribute to its reliability, ensuring a dependable source of energy for various applications.

Source of Natural Gas

The primary source of natural gas is underground reservoirs located deep within the Earth’s crust. Natural gas forms over millions of years through the decomposition of organic matter, such as dead plants and animals, in sedimentary rock layers. Here are the main sources of natural gas:

  1. Conventional Natural Gas: Conventional natural gas is found in reservoirs where the gas is trapped by impermeable rock formations, forming pockets of gas within porous rock layers. These reservoirs can be located onshore or offshore and are typically accessed through traditional drilling methods.
  2. Unconventional Natural Gas: Unconventional natural gas refers to gas trapped in reservoirs with low permeability, making it more difficult to extract. The two primary types of unconventional natural gas are a. Shale Gas: Shale gas is found in shale formations, which are fine-grained sedimentary rocks rich in organic material. Extracting shale gas involves a process called hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), where a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand is injected at high pressure to fracture the rock and release the gas trapped within it.b. Tight Gas: Tight gas refers to natural gas found in low-permeability sandstone or limestone formations. Extracting tight gas often requires advanced drilling techniques, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, to access and extract gas from these reservoirs.
  3. Coalbed Methane: Coalbed methane, also known as coal seam gas, is methane gas trapped within coal deposits. When coal is formed, methane becomes trapped within the coal seams. Coalbed methane extraction involves removing water from the coal seams, which releases the trapped methane.
  4. Associated Gas: Associated gas is natural gas that is found alongside oil deposits. When oil is extracted, natural gas often comes up along with the oil. This associated gas can be captured and utilized.
  5. Biogas: Biogas is produced through the decomposition of organic matter in anaerobic conditions, such as in landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and agricultural waste facilities. Biogas primarily consists of methane, which can be processed and used as a renewable energy source.

These various sources contribute to the overall supply of natural gas worldwide. However, the extraction of natural gas, particularly from unconventional sources like shale gas, requires careful consideration of environmental impacts and adherence to regulatory frameworks to ensure responsible and sustainable production.


Natural gas offers several advantages as a cleaner, versatile, and abundant energy source. However, it also poses environmental and safety concerns, particularly regarding methane emissions and fracking. Balancing the benefits with the potential drawbacks requires careful regulation, monitoring, and investment in renewable energy alternatives.


Q1. Is natural gas better for the environment compared to coal and oil?

Yes, natural gas combustion produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants compared to coal and oil. However, methane leakage during extraction and transportation can undermine its environmental benefits.

Q2. Can natural gas be used for transportation purposes?

Yes, natural gas can be used as a transportation fuel in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). It is considered a cleaner alternative to conventional gasoline or diesel.

Q3. What are the safety risks associated with natural gas?

Natural gas is highly flammable, and leaks can lead to fire or explosions. Safety risks include accidental ignition, improper installation, or inadequate maintenance of gas infrastructure.

Q4. How does natural gas contribute to energy security?

Countries with access to domestic natural gas reserves can reduce their dependence on imported energy sources, enhancing their energy security and reducing geopolitical risks associated with energy imports.

Q5. What role can natural gas play in the transition to renewable energy?

Natural gas can serve as a transitional fuel by complementing intermittent renewable energy sources. It provides a reliable backup power supply while renewable technologies continue to advance.

Published by Robi