It can be difficult to differentiate between natural gas and renewable natural gas (RNG). Both gases can even be used interchangeably in the same applications. Besides the fact that only one is renewable, the main difference between natural gas and RNG lies in each gases’ production methods, and consequently their environmental impacts. What each gas is, how each come to be and how each affects the environment are outlined below.
What is natural gas?
Conventional natural gas is not a carbon-neutral fuel, meaning that it releases more CO2 into the atmosphere than it offsets, aiding climate change. It is a fossil fuel formed from the remains of plants and animals when they are exposed to intense heat and pressure. It is the cleanest of the fossil fuels.
Natural gases’ negative environmental impacts come from all stages such as the drilling & extraction, transportation, and burning & consumption of it. During drilling and extraction the fracking process pollutes the streams while using local water reservoirs. This process is depicted below When burned, natural gas releases methane, which is harmful to the environment.
Natural gas is not a renewable resource, meaning that it is not a sustainable source of energy. In fact, there are only 52 years left of reserves left to extract according to Worldometers. This is where RNG comes into play.
What is renewable natural gas?
RNG, also known as biomethane or green gas, is a carbon-neutral fuel that captures human-generated biogas already present in the environment in landfills, wastewater treatment plants and livestock operations. Raw biogas or methane from these sources is then converted into RNG at a treatment plant.
RNG has positive environmental impacts. RNG is a carbon-neutral fuel, meaning that it releases no more CO2 into the air than it captures. Methane capturing helps mitigate climate change by capturing harmful gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and pollute the communities where landfills and livestock operations exist.
RNG is also a renewable resource. It comes from the naturally occurring sources mentioned above. The capturing of methane and and prevention of harmful gases releasing into the environment from naturally occurring sources is what makes this gas and fuel source a renewable one.
Want to learn more?
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