Emissions Implications of Future Natural Gas Production and Use in the U.S. and in the Rocky Mountain Region

Gregory Brinkman, Jeffrey McLeod, Jana Milford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus Citations


Enhanced prospects for natural gas production raise questions about the balance of impacts on air quality, as increased emissions from production activities are considered alongside the reductions expected when natural gas is burned in place of other fossil fuels. This study explores how trends in natural gas production over the coming decades might affect emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) for the United States and its Rocky Mountain region. The MARKAL (MARKet ALlocation) energy system optimization model is used with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's nine-region database to compare scenarios for natural gas supply and demand, constraints on the electricity generation mix, and GHG emissions fees. Through 2050, total energy system GHG emissions show little response to natural gas supply assumptions, due to offsetting changes across sectors. Policy-driven constraints or emissions fees are needed to achieve net reductions. In most scenarios, wind is a less expensive source of new electricity supplies in the Rocky Mountain region than natural gas. U.S. NOx emissions decline in all the scenarios considered. Increased VOC emissions from natural gas production offset part of the anticipated reductions from the transportation sector, especially in the Rocky Mountain region.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)13036-13044
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-63655


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