The Natural Gas Flame Continues to Burn Bright

The Natural Gas Flame Continues to Burn Bright
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The Natural Gas Flame Continues to Burn Bright

The natural gas sector is well aware of the challenges facing the fossil fuel industry, but analysts say gas has attributes that will keep it a big part of the U.S. and global energy mix.

Natural gas has moved to the front burner of power generation discussions. The fuel’s future has been a topic of debate for months, with the U.S. industry concerned about potential drilling limits from the Biden administration, and a move toward increased electrification in the U.S. and globally that could reduce demand for gas outside of the electricity sector.

The fallout from a severe winter storm that wreaked havoc on Texas’ gas supply in February, and left millions of Texans without power and heat, also raised questions about reliance on natural gas. That’s an issue raised by the Trump administration when it argued for propping up coal and nuclear power, saying the natural gas supply could be disrupted by external events.

Low prices for natural gas over the past decade helped establish the fuel as the leading source of power generation in the U.S. Natural gas also has been characterized as a bridge fuel as the electricity sector transitions toward renewable energy, able to rapidly provide backup power to help balance the intermittency of renewables.

However, the rise of renewables such as solar and wind, along with ever-stricter regulations on power plant emissions, has prompted questions about the future of natural gas-fired generation. New gas-fired plants are being built, but facilities also are being retired. Andrew Bradford, principal of Colorado-based BTU Analytics, said his group expects “19 GW of gas [mostly older vintage gas-steam plant] retirements through 2026 based on our analysis.”

Despite the challenges, analysts who spoke with POWER agree natural gas will remain a major part of U.S. and global power generation for years. They say natural gas continues as an important fuel for baseload power, though large combined cycle plants may give way to more smaller-scale, quick-start combustion turbines, to deal with localized intermittency. Another trend? Gas-fired projects, both new and existing, are increasingly paired with battery storage.

“The future for gas-fired power generation is incredibly bright, notwithstanding the decarbonization megatrend,” said Gabe Procaccini, a partner with Akin Gump who focuses on energy. “Natural gas is abundant, inexpensive in the U.S. [and relatively inexpensive globally as a result of a growing global liquefied natural gas distribution network], clean, and most importantly a flexible source of power. These attributes have fostered greater adoption of gas-fired power generation facilities by many states and independent system operators, and that trend is not expected to decrease anytime soon among this group.”

Procaccini told POWER that the move toward decarbonization could help the gas industry, at least for a while. “In fact, as gas becomes even cleaner through carbon capture and storage, and other emerging technologies, pairing gas with voluntary carbon credits and the greater production of biogas, to name a few factors, demand for gas-fired power generation is expected to grow in these markets and additional gas-fired plants are expected to be built well into the next decade,” he said.

Power Generation

Gas turbine manufacturers continue to innovate, making their products more efficient and flexible, and able to burn natural gas along with other fuels. Two GE 9HA.02 gas turbines—the largest model of GE’s second-generation H-class heavy-duty gas turbine fleet and one of the largest gas turbine models on the global market—in late February began commercial operation at Southern Power Generation’s 1,440-MW Track 4A Power Plant in Malaysia. Mitsubishi Power in March said it is developing a 40-MW class gas turbine that can directly combust 100% ammonia. Siemens Energy in February said it reached an agreement to provide its latest F-class gas-steam combined cycle units to a combined heat and power (CHP) project in China; the 2×460-MW gas-steam CHP units include two SGT5-4000F gas turbines.

fig1 killingly combined cycle power plant nte energy
1. This is a rendering of NTE Energy’s planned 650-MW Killingly Energy Center in Connecticut. Construction of the project is set to begin this year. Florida-based NTE Energy has 2.7 GW of natural gas-fired electric generation in various stages of development, including the Killingly plant, which will feature a Mitsubishi Power M501JAC combustion turbine, capable of burning ultra-low sulfur diesel as backup fuel. Courtesy: NTE Energy

U.S. gas-fired projects are continuing (Figure 1), with many factors entering into their planning, according to those who spoke with POWER. “Right now, there is little need for new gas generation in the U.S. at a macro level,” said Jeremy Fago, Utilities and Mining Deals Leader with PwC U.S. Energy. “This is, however, a very region-specific issue—build activity will depend on capacity needs, customer make-up, fuel resource, generation make-up, weather patterns, and many other factors. Furthermore, penetration of renewables will continue to drive needed quick-start [turbine] generation to support intermittency absent significant at-scale breakthroughs in electric storage technologies.”

Fago said improvements in batteries will have a direct impact on gas-fired power generation. “It will directly impact the need for backstop/peaking capacity to support renewable intermittency until new technologies are feasible to store electricity at scale,” he said. “Costs will matter, as will reliability and investor, customer, and regulatory sentiment. It is not a ‘hold all else equal’ evaluation, however, as the industry will be looking at all solutions to support customer needs. The evolution of carbon capture technologies could also significantly impact it.”

Matt Kapinos, an Akin Gump partner focused on energy development, told POWER, “Advanced technology will be sure to make gas-fired plants more attractive to build; however, the movement against fossil fuels will in some states create strong headwinds against building a new gas-fired plant regardless of cost and grid efficiency. Even then, the EIA [U.S. Energy Information Administration] predicts that 60% of all MW added between now and 2050 will be in the form of new natural gas generation. This goes to the reality of the situation: a robust mix of renewable generation requires a reliable mix of baseload and on-demand generation to support it. With the retirements of coal plants and the lack of enthusiasm for new nuclear generation, gas-fired generation has to play a role.”

Bradford noted a move from larger to smaller units, saying his group sees “a potential transition from large combined cycle plants to more smaller-scale, quick-start combustion turbines to deal with localized intermittency. One trend we are seeing is an increase in paired battery projects with both existing and new gas-fired projects. We expect to see this trend in paired battery-thermal assets continue at operational and new quick-start gas assets under development.”

Flexibility also is a key consideration. “New gas-fired plants must be capable of transitioning to hydrogen or carbon capture as those technologies mature,” said Tom Rumsey, vice president of external and regulatory affairs at Competitive Power Ventures (CPV), which has brought a number of new gas-fired plants (Figure 2) online in recent years. “Fortunately, the leading manufacturers have already designed turbines with these capabilities. Gas turbine technology is not the issue of moving to hydrogen or carbon capture. Developing a sound regulatory environment, building the infrastructure, and addressing the costs are the primary concerns… environmental impacts, the cost and availability of investment capital as well as any legislated carbon reduction goals will also drive investment decisions.”

Kane Cuddy, president of BOND Civil & Utility, which provides power plant and other construction services, told POWER, “Advancing technology, especially the reduction of their carbon footprint, will certainly impact the future viability of gas-fired plants. Keeping these plants more efficient will assist in keeping them in market consideration. Economics and cost viability will always play some role in determining new-builds, but I also believe we are already seeing shifts in buying behavior be more and more shaped by the net-neutral policy initiatives.”

Bradford said that globally, “our expectation is [that] as emerging economies address decarbonization, while renewables will be part of the solution, so will a significant volume of gas-fired power assets. Higher-efficiency gas plants will certainly be a part of the mix for companies to achieve carbon reduction goals, particularly in areas where wind and solar lack either the resource potential or land area for wide-scale development.”

Impact of Electrification

The decarbonization of the world’s energy supply includes a focus on electrification. Much of the discussion has looked at increasing the adoption of electric vehicles, but the gas industry is particularly concerned with measures to eliminate the use of natural gas in homes and commercial buildings.

California has been at the forefront of the electrification movement in an effort to meet the state’s aggressive climate goals. “We have seen increased regulation at the municipality level pushing for electrification, with some recent examples in Berkeley and San Jose, California,” said Bradford. A study from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) concluded that California’s most efficient and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions in new buildings would be for the state to require all-electric new construction in the 2022 code cycle. The RMI estimated that a statewide ruling for the 2022 code cycle, versus waiting until the next code cycle in 2025, could save California 3 million metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030.

The Natural Gas Flame Continues to Burn Bright
2. Competitive Power Ventures’ Woodbridge Energy Center in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, is a 725-MW, $843 million 2×1 combined cycle plant that began operating in January 2016. It features two GE fast-start 7F 5-Series gas turbines, along with a D-11A steam turbine. Courtesy: Competitive Power Ventures

Bradford said BTU Analytics’ forecast of U.S. residential/commercial (res/com) natural gas demand to 2050 is relatively flat from current levels, at 21.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2020. He said that res/com gas demand “has been relatively flat since 2010, bouncing around 20 and 23 Bcf/d depending on year-over-year HDD [heating degree day] changes.”

He continued: “Going forward, there are offsetting forces between new-build res/com demand versus the combination of tighter building codes, higher efficiency appliances, and the continued demographic shift south and west. BTU’s forecast has falling res/com demand from a peak in 2026 at 22.3 Bcf/d down to 22.0 Bcf/d by 2050. From a regional perspective, I would expect the most traction on municipal regulation of new-build gas burn to occur on the West Coast and mid-Atlantic to New England corridor, based on current municipal-level climate action.”

The Texas Situation

The widespread power outages in Texas caused by a severe winter storm highlighted the shortcomings of a reliance on natural gas, though energy experts said proper winterization of equipment would have helped avoid, or at least lessen, the negative impacts. State data showed that production of natural gas, and gas-fired power generation, each fell by about a third in Texas during the period of extreme cold. Energy analysts agreed that the state’s gas infrastructure and power generation failed because it is not designed to work in such conditions, unlike the equipment in other areas where cold temperatures are more common.

“In the U.S., the new Biden administration… likely will give strong support to further moves away from reliance on gas-fired power generation. It is too early to tell whether that support will be matched by state-level regulatory support and mandates,” said Steve Davis, a partner with Akin Gump and co-leader of the firm’s energy team. “Nonetheless, many of the largest oil and gas companies, as well as the largest car manufacturers, appear to be voting strongly with their capital dollars that the trends toward renewables and electrification are here to stay and even accelerating. It may be more regionally focused, with states with significant oil and gas-related facilities delaying mandates for a significant period of time. Still, the mid-February Texas weather events and their fallout are too early, and perhaps too potentially many and material, to predict.”

“Wholesale energy markets were designed and have been very effective at selecting the lowest-cost generation to meet reliability needs for over two decades,” said Rumsey. “As gas prices fluctuate, so will generation dispatch.” He said that while environmental concerns will bring more renewable energy generation, “highly efficient, flexible baseload generation will be needed to balance the intermittency of renewables. We have seen the challenges of an over-reliance on non-dispatchable generation. The lowest-emitting, efficient, and reliable technology available to ensure reliability while facilitating renewable growth is combined cycle natural gas generation.”

Drilling Limits

Among the policy considerations for natural gas is what impact new limits on U.S. drilling from the Biden administration will have on the sector. One of the administration’s first actions was to temporarily suspend oil and gas permitting on federal lands and waters.

“Fracking [hydraulic fracturing] is a hot-button issue for this administration,” Thomas Lorenzen, a partner with international law firm Crowell & Moring, told POWER. “Natural gas is increasingly taking the place of coal. There may be opportunities for the administration to work with the gas production industry to reduce methane leaks and reduce methane emitted into the atmosphere. We can expect to see more regulation on methane emissions on public lands, requiring the sector to fix leaks.”

“The impacts of the recent moves by the Biden administration to limit drilling on federal lands is nuanced,” Bradford said, but he generally doesn’t anticipate a significant impact in the near-term. “The president’s decision to freeze new drilling leases and permits on federal lands is likely to impact New Mexico the most,” as federal land accounts for almost two-thirds of that state’s natural gas production. Bradford noted, though, that “over the last two years producers have slowly built up a significant backlog in drilling permits that could sustain drilling for over three years.”

Andrew Griffith, a senior consultant for international consultancy ICF, told POWER, “Restricting drilling on federal lands will have a significant impact in some regions, but the national impact would be far less today compared to 10 years ago. In 2010, about 23% of the country’s natural gas production came from federal lands. That proportion has declined every year since, and it was about 11% in 2019. Since 2019, some oil and natural gas producers, anticipating potential restrictions to drilling on federal lands, began shifting their focus to areas of the country where they could drill on privately held land.”

Griffith continued: “Given this transition of production away from federal lands, the gradual nature that any new restrictions on leasing of federal lands likely would be implemented, and the fact that the lowest-cost oil and natural gas resources in the U.S. are not on federal lands, the impact will not be an immediate loss of 11% of natural gas production. The Marcellus and Utica production basins, for example, sit almost entirely on privately held lands and likely would make up a significant amount of the difference in gas production.”

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Last Updated: August 2019


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Last updated: August 2019

Welcome to Exchange (the “Website”). The Website is owned and operated by Pipe Exchange LLCPipe ExchangePipe Exchange including its related companies, affiliates and subsidiaries (collectively “Pipe Exchange,” “we,” “us,” “our”). We make the Website available to you, subject to the following Terms of Use (these “Terms of Use”). PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING TERMS OF USE CAREFULLY BEFORE USING THE WEBSITE. By using the Website, you agree to these Terms of Use and agree they create a legally binding agreement between you and Pipe Exchange. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, you may not use the Website. These Terms of Use are effective unless and until terminated by Pipe Exchange.

Minors are not authorized to access or use the Website for any purpose.


Pipe Exchange reserves the right, at any time, to modify, amend, alter or update these Terms of Use. These changes will be effective as of the date we post the revised version. By continuing to use the Website following such modifications, amendments, alterations or updates, you agree to be bound by such modifications, amendments, alterations or updates. Therefore, you should periodically visit this page to review our most current Terms of Use.

You may access the current version of these Terms of Use at any time by clicking on the link marked “Terms of Use” at the bottom of each page of the Website.


In the course of your use of the Website, you may be asked to provide certain personalized information to us (such information referred to hereinafter as “User Information”).  Our information collection and use policies with respect to the privacy of such User Information are set forth in the Website’s Privacy Policy which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.  You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for the accuracy and content of User Information, and you agree to keep it up to date. 


Pipe Exchange respects the intellectual property rights of others. As between you and Pipe Exchange, and except any User Information which you provide, all rights, title and interests in the Website, including all the content (including, for example, audio, photographs, illustrations, graphics, other visuals, video, copy, software, etc.), code, data and materials thereon, the look and feel, design and organization of the Website, and the compilation of the content, code, data and materials on the Website, including but not limited to any copyrights, trademark rights, patent rights, database rights, moral rights, sui generis rights and other intellectual property and proprietary rights therein (collectively the “Content”) are owned by Pipe Exchange or by third parties who have licensed or provided their Content to us. The Website is protected under Trademarks (as defined below), copyright, patent, trade secret and other intellectual property rights laws, and your use of the Website does not grant to you ownership of any Content you may access on the Website. You are prohibited from using the Website to infringe or violate any intellectual property rights. Pipe Exchange may terminate your right to access the Website if it believes you are using the Website in a manner that infringes the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of another.

We may investigate occurrences that may involve violations of the security of the Services or of the law and we may involve, and cooperate with, law enforcement authorities in prosecuting users who are involved in such violations.

The trademarks, logos, service marks and trade names (collectively the “Trademarks”) displayed on the Website or on content available through the Website are registered and unregistered Trademarks of ours and others and may not be used unless authorized by the trademark owner.  All Trademarks not owned by us that appear on the Website or on or through the Website’s services, if any, are the property of their respective owners.  Nothing contained on the Website should be construed as granting, by implication, estoppel, or otherwise, any license or right to use any Trademark displayed on the Website without our written permission or that of the third-party rights holder.  Your misuse of the Trademarks displayed on the Website is strictly prohibited.  Pipe Exchange will aggressively enforce its Trademark rights to the fullest extent of the law, including the seeking of criminal prosecution.


The Website and the Content are intended for your personal use.  You may access and view the content on the Website via your computer or other internet compatible device, and make single copies or prints of the content on the Website for your personal, internal use only.   The Website and the services offered on or through the Website, including Pipe Exchange’s e-publication and any other content and materials thereon, are only for your personal, non-commercial use. Except as otherwise provided on the Website, you may not modify, copy, distribute, transmit, display, perform, reproduce, publish, license, sell, create derivative works from, transfer, or sell any information, software, products or services obtained from the Website. Use of the Website to sell a product or service, or to increase traffic to your website for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales is expressly forbidden.


Any commercial distribution, publishing or exploitation of the Website, or any content, code, data or materials on the Website, is strictly prohibited unless you have received the express prior permission of Pipe Exchange or the applicable rights holder.  You may not otherwise download, display, copy, reproduce, distribute, modify, perform, transfer, create derivative works from, sell or otherwise exploit any content, code, data or materials on the Website.  If you make other use of the Website, or the content, code, data or materials thereon, except as otherwise provided above, you may violate copyright and other laws of the United States, other countries, as well as applicable state laws and may be subject to liability for such unauthorized use.  Pipe Exchange will aggressively enforce its intellectual property rights to the fullest extent of the law, including the seeking of criminal prosecution.


You are prohibited from violating, or attempting to violate the security of the Website. Any such violations may result in criminal and civil liabilities to you.  You warrant and agree that, while using the Website and the various services and features offered on or through the Website, you shall not: (a) impersonate any person or entity or misrepresent your affiliation with any other person or entity; (b) insert your own or a third party’s advertising, branding or other promotional content into any of the Website’s content, materials or services, or use, redistribute, republish or exploit such content or service for any further commercial or promotional purposes or take any action that would constitute or could be interpreted as an endorsement or sponsorship by Pipe Exchange of any third party site, content, information or other materials, or in any manner that would violate the terms and conditions of any such third party sites; (c) attempt to probe, scan, or test the vulnerability of any system or network; or (d) attempt to gain unauthorized access to data not intended for you and/or other computer systems through the Website.  You shall not: (i) engage in spidering, “screen scraping,” “database scraping,” harvesting of e-mail addresses, wireless addresses or other contact or personal information, or any other automatic means of accessing, logging-in or registering on the Website or for any services or features offered on or through the Website, or obtaining lists of users or obtaining or accessing other information or features on, from or through the Website or the services offered on or through the Website, including, without limitation, any information residing on any server or database connected to the Website or any services offered on or through the Website; (ii) obtain or attempt to obtain unauthorized access to computer systems, materials, information or any services made available on or through the Website through any means; (iii) use the Website or the services made available on or through the Website in any manner with the intent to interrupt, damage, disable, overburden, or impair the Website or such services, including, without limitation, sending mass unsolicited messages or “flooding,” “spamming,” or “crashing” any systems; (iv) use the Website or the Website’s services or features in violation of Pipe Exchange’s or any third party’s intellectual property or other proprietary or legal rights; or (v) use the Website or the Website’s services in violation of any applicable law.  You further agree that you may not attempt (or encourage or support anyone else’s attempt) to circumvent, reverse engineer, decrypt, or otherwise alter or interfere with the Website or the Website’s services, or any content thereof, or make unauthorized use thereof.  You agree that you will not use the Website in any manner that could damage, disable, overburden, or impair the Website or interfere with any other party’s use and enjoyment of the Website. You may not obtain or attempt to obtain any materials or information through any means not intentionally made publicly available or provided for through the Website. Pipe Exchange will investigate any alleged violations and will cooperate with law enforcement agencies in their investigations.


Some of the information and material available through the Website are provided to Pipe Exchange by third parties (“Third-Party Material”). In some instances, the source of the Third-Party Material is identified. Third-Party Material is provided for your convenience only and Pipe Exchange does not endorse these materials or the parties who supply them to us. Pipe Exchange does not warrant or represent that these Third-Party Materials are current, accurate or reliable.


We respect the intellectual property rights of others, and require that the people who use the Website do the same.  If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please forward the following information to Pipe Exchange’s Copyright Agent, designated as such pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(2), named below:

  • Your address, telephone number, and email address;
  • A description of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed;
  • A description of where the alleged infringing material is located;
  • A statement by you that you have a good faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
  • An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright interest; and
  • A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your Notice is accurate and that you are the copyright owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner’s behalf.
  • For all email submissions please include the subject line: DMCA Takedown Request.


Pipe Exchange has adopted a policy of terminating, in appropriate circumstances, accounts of users of the services or the Website who are deemed to have repeatedly uploaded content that infringes the intellectual property rights of others.


Copyright Agent:

Pipe Exchange Legal

c/o Pipe Exchange LLC

14025 West Road.
Suite #100
Houston, TX 77041

Phone: + (713) 934-9480








Pipe Exchange may terminate, change, suspend or discontinue any aspect of the Website or the Website’s services at any time.  Pipe Exchange may restrict, suspend or terminate your access to the Website and/or its services if we believe you are in breach of our terms and conditions or applicable law, or for any other reason without notice or liability.  Pipe Exchange maintains a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of the Website use privileges of users who are repeat infringers of intellectual property rights.


If you are dissatisfied with any portion of the Website or with any of these Terms of Use, your sole and exclusive remedy is to discontinue using the Website.


These Terms of Use and the relationship between you and Pipe Exchange shall be governed by the laws of the United States and the State of Florida without regard to its conflict of law provisions. You hereby irrevocably submit and consent to the personal and exclusive jurisdiction of the courts located within Miami-Dade County, Florida and agree that any cause of action that may arise under these Terms of Use and all disputes arising out of or relating to the use of the Website shall be commenced and be heard in the appropriate court in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The failure of Pipe Exchange to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Terms of Use shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any provision of these Terms of Use is found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the parties nevertheless agree that the court should endeavor to give effect to the parties’ intentions as reflected in the provision, and the other provisions of these Terms of Use remain in full force and effect. 


If you have any questions regarding these Terms of Use, please either:

Send an email to

Write to Pipe Exchange at the following address:

14025 West Road

Suite 100

Houston, TX 77041


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