Recent­ly, Unit­ed States Sec­re­tary of Ener­gy Jen­nifer Granholm vis­it­ed West Vir­ginia to tour the Nation­al Ener­gy Tech­nol­o­gy Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Mor­gan­town. She learned first­hand that this region is vast­ly dif­fer­ent from oth­er areas around the nation in its nat­ur­al gas production.

When com­pared to the rest of the nation, the Mar­cel­lus and Uti­ca basins have the low­est car­bon emis­sions of any major oil and gas play in the nation. The basin – found across West Vir­ginia, Penn­syl­va­nia and Ohio – is con­sid­ered “Best in Class” by Rys­tad Ener­gy, an achieve­ment that the rest of the nation’s oil and gas com­pa­nies are try­ing to reach. And nation­al­ly, the EPA reports that the oil and gas indus­try has seen a 23% decline in methane emis­sions from pro­duc­tion over the last sev­er­al years all while pro­duc­tion has increased substantially.

The Unit­ed States is not only ener­gy secure, but we are also now a net exporter of oil and nat­ur­al gas – mean­ing we export more than we import. Not only is this good for Amer­i­can con­sumers, but it has also been good for the envi­ron­ment. This is the rea­son why the indus­try has been push­ing new advance­ments in tech­nol­o­gy for greater con­trol of emis­sions and sup­port­ing reg­u­la­tion of methane ‑the prod­uct it sells. And still, the indus­try under­stands even more can be done.

West Vir­ginia sits in the PJM region­al trans­mis­sion area ‑which is our “grid.” PJM (which orig­i­nal­ly stood for Penn­syl­va­nia, Jer­sey, Mary­land) present­ly com­pris­es an area includ­ing all or parts of 13 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and serves 65 mil­lion peo­ple. West Vir­ginia is com­plete­ly with­in the PJM. One can vis­it the grid’s web­site to see what the diver­si­ty of the fuel mix – which usu­al­ly runs around 113,000 MW on a giv­en evening. Of that 113,000 – approx­i­mate­ly 46,000 is nat­ur­al gas; 33,000 is nuclear; and 29,000 is coal. The remain­der is from renew­able resources includ­ing hydro, wind and solar.

PJM is a com­pet­i­tive whole­sale elec­tric­i­ty mar­ket which has encour­aged the invest­ment in, more effi­cient tech­nolo­gies. A sig­nif­i­cant increase in new whole­sale gen­er­a­tion includ­ing com­bined-cycle nat­ur­al gas pow­er plants has led to sig­nif­i­cant decreas­es in emis­sions across the PJM. From 2005 to 2020, PJM reports that CO2 fell 39%. Nitro­gen oxides fell 86% and sul­fur diox­ides fell 95%. From 2019 to 2020, those same emis­sions fell 7%, 20% and 22% respectively.

In the Unit­ed States alone, nat­ur­al gas pro­duc­tion is expect­ed to hit 93.3 bil­lion cubic feet per day (Bcfd) by next year and 100 Bcfd two years after that. Mean­while, the Mar­cel­lus and Uti­ca are respon­si­ble for rough­ly one-third of all the shale gas being pro­duced in the coun­try. Penn­syl­va­nia and Ohio have found a use for all of that gas in a num­ber of new whole­sale gen­er­a­tor com­bined-cycle nat­ur­al gas pow­er plants that have recent­ly come online or are present­ly under construction.

In West Vir­ginia and sur­round­ing states, nat­ur­al gas is respon­si­ble for the sig­nif­i­cant drop in car­bon diox­ide and oth­er emis­sions from the elec­tric grid from which we pow­er our dai­ly lives. All while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly low­er­ing methane emis­sions across the nation accord­ing to the EPA. The men and women of the nat­ur­al gas indus­try have one more thing to be proud of in know­ing that their work not only keeps the lights on in our homes and busi­ness­es, but also keeps our air clean­er at the same time.