Investing in the US Natural Gas Pipeline System to Support Net-Zero Targets

Lead PI: Erin Blanton , Dr. Melissa Lott

Unit Affiliation: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP)

April 2021 - Ongoing
North America
Project Type: Research Outreach

DESCRIPTION: While it may seem counterintuitive, investing more in the domestic natural gas pipeline network could help the US reach net-zero emission goals more quickly and cheaply. Fortifying and upgrading the system could prepare the existing infrastructure to transport zero-carbon fuels as they become available and, in the meantime, reduce harmful methane leaks. There is no quick replacement for gas in the US energy mix. And for many of the needs natural gas currently meets, the eventual replacement may be zero-carbon gaseous fuels (e.g., hydrogen, biogas), which, too, will require a pipeline network for efficient delivery to markets and end users. Adjusting existing infrastructure can help minimize the costs and accelerate the speed of the transition. This paper examines projections of continued natural gas use and the zero-carbon fuels that are poised to become a bigger part of the energy mix and details the state of the existing pipeline network, trends, and technical considerations for moving new, zero-carbon fuels through the system. The findings, combined with potential net-zero goals, lead to recommendations for curbing greenhouse gas emissions caused by leakage in the existing network, and policy options that will minimize environmental impacts and maximize economic benefits.