Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

New findings show U.S. power plant emissions down

Published: Saturday, January 11, 2014
Last Updated: Saturday, January 11, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Scientists report that switch to natural gas power plants means fewer air pollutants

Power plants that use natural gas and a new technology to squeeze more energy from the fuel release far less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than coal-fired power plants do, according to a new analysis accepted for publication Jan. 8 in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The so-called “combined cycle” natural gas power plants also release significantly less nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which can worsen air quality.
 
“Since more and more of our electricity is coming from these cleaner power plants, emissions from the power sector are lower by 20, 30, even 40 percent for some gases, since 1997,” said lead author Joost de Gouw, an atmospheric scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
 
De Gouw, who works at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), and his NOAA and CIRES colleagues analyzed data from systems that continuously monitor emissions at power plant stacks around the country. Previous aircraft-based studies have shown these stack measurements are accurate for carbon dioxide and for nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide can react in the atmosphere to form tiny particles and ozone, which can cause respiratory disease.
 
To compare pollutant emissions from different types of power plants, the scientists calculated emissions per unit of energy produced, for all data available between 1997 and 2012. During that period of time, on average:
 
Coal-based power plants emitted 915 grams (32 ounces) of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of energy produced;
Natural gas power plants emitted 549 grams (19 ounces) carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour; and
Combined cycle natural gas plants emitted 436 grams (15 ounces) carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour.
 
In combined cycle natural gas plants, operators use two heat engines in tandem to convert a higher fraction of heat into electrical energy. For context, U.S. households consumed 11,280 kilowatt hours of energy, on average, in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. This amounts to 11.4 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide per household, if all of that electricity were generated by a coal power plant, or 5.4 metric tons if it all came from a natural gas power plant with combined cycle technology.
 
The researchers reported that between 1997 and 2012, the fraction of electric energy in the United States produced from coal gradually decreased from 83 percent to 59 percent, and the fraction of energy from combined cycle natural gas plants rose from none to 34 percent.
 
That shift in the energy industry meant that power plants, overall, sent 23 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere last year than they would have, had coal been providing about the same fraction of electric power as in 1997, de Gouw said. The switch led to even greater reductions in the power sector’s emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which dropped by 40 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
 
The new findings are consistent with recent reports from the Energy Information Agency that substituting natural gas for coal in power generation helped lower power-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2012.
 
The authors noted that the new analysis is limited to pollutants emitted during energy production and measured at stacks. The paper did not address levels of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that leak into the atmosphere during fuel extraction, for example. To investigate the total atmospheric consequences of shifting energy use, scientists need to continue collecting data from all aspects of energy exploration, production and use, the authors concluded.
 


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Sea Level Variations Escalating Along Eastern Gulf of Mexico Coast
New study shows that sea level fluctuations have been intensifying over the past 20 years.
Monday, February 03, 2014
Martian chemical complicates hunt for life’s clues
The quest for evidence of life on Mars could be more difficult than scientists previously thought.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Scientific News
Breaking Cell Barriers with Retractable Protein Nanoneedles
Adapting a bacterial structure, institute researchers have developed protein actuators that can mechanically puncture cells.
Gene Signature could Lead to a New Way of Diagnosing Lyme Disease
Lyme disease patients had distinctive gene signatures that persisted for at least three weeks, even after they had taken the antibiotics.
Retractable Protein Nanoneedles
The ability to control the transfer of molecules through cellular membranes is an important function in synthetic biology; a new study from researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Harvard Medical School (HMS) introduces a novel mechanical method for controlling release of molecules inside cells.
Leukemia’s Surroundings Key to its Growth
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered that a type of cancer found primarily in children can grow only when signaled to do so by other nearby cells that are noncancerous.
Common Cell Transformed into Master Heart Cell
By genetically reprogramming the most common type of cell in mammalian connective tissue, researchers at the University of Wisconsin—Madison have generated master heart cells — primitive progenitors that form the developing heart.
‘Smelling’ Prostate Cancer
A research team from the University of Liverpool and the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has reached an important milestone towards creating a urine diagnostic test for prostate cancer that could mean that invasive diagnostic procedures that men currently undergo eventually become a thing of the past.
Genetic Mutation that Prevents Diabetes Complications
The most significant complications of diabetes include diabetic retinal disease, or retinopathy, and diabetic kidney disease, or nephropathy. Both involve damaged capillaries.
A Crystal Clear View of Biomolecules
Fundamental discovery triggers paradigm shift in crystallography.
Could the Food we Eat Affect Our Genes?
Almost all of our genes may be influenced by the food we eat, according to new research.
NIH Seeks Research Applications to Study Zika in Pregnancy, Developing Fetus
Institute has announced that the new effort seeks to understand virus effect on reproduction and child development.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!