The Climate Impact Of Natural Gas and Coal-Fired Electricity: A Review of Fuel Chain Emissions Based on Updated EPA National Inventory Data

This paper provides an updated, comparative fuel chain calculation of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of natural gas- and coal-fired electricity. The analysis incorporates revised 2011 US EPA estimates of fugitive methane emissions from the upstream (i.e., production) portion of the fuel chain. Based on this revised EPA data and average generation heat rates, we find that existing gas-fired generation is still, on average, about 51% less GHG intensive than existing coal-fired generation. Similarly, a new gas-fired combined-cycle unit produces about 52% less GHG emissions per kWh than a new coal-fired steam unit; about 58% less than the average coal-fired unit; and about 63% less than a typical older coal-fired unit.

Key relevant concepts include:

  • footprint/fuel chain
  • fugitive emission
  • efficiency
  • GHG intensity

Read the report (Adobe PDF document).

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