As the United States continues to transition toward increased use of renewable energy, the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) is encouraging policymakers to recognize the benefits of existing natural gas, as well as the need for a robust network of transmission and distribution pipelines to transport important renewable energy sources.
“We know there are three gases needed to reach America’s ambitious carbon reduction goals,” said Taylor Dacus of Troy Construction and APCA president. “First, we won’t get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without traditional natural gas. Second, environmental opportunities offered by renewable hydrogen are gaining more attention. Third, carbon dioxide (CO₂) can be captured at sources of emission and moved to where it can be put to industrial use or safety stored. However, all of these opportunities cannot be reached without dependable pipeline infrastructure to safety transport these critical gases.”
Some 1,600 miles of hydrogen pipeline exist in the United States, and pipeline operators are also moving hydrogen by blending it with methane in natural gas pipelines. Pipelines are the dominant mode of CO₂ transportation, where approximately 5,000 miles of existing CO₂ pipelines operate in limited regions of the country. However, there are limits on blending hydrogen in existing pipelines, and not all areas of the country have the appropriate geology for CO₂ storage, so a dependable method of transportation is needed to move it to regions that do.
“We’re not the only ones saying this,” Dacus added. “Academic sources agree that upgrading existing natural gas systems and building new ones can serve to transport zero-carbon fuels as they become available and reduce methane leaks along the way.”
According to a new study conducted by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, investing in the nation’s natural gas pipeline network could be crucial to helping America reach its 2050 net-zero emission goals.
“APCA supports the increased use of renewable energy, but we won’t get there without clean-burning natural gas,” said John Fluharty of Mears Group and chair of the association’s government affairs committee. “And importantly, all of the advantages offered by the increased use of hydrogen and capturing and transporting CO₂ to areas for effective industrial use will be possible only with a continued role for natural gas and the expansion of the pipeline infrastructure required to move it.”