IGU: natural gas use improves air quality in urban areas

A new report from the International Gas Union finds that increased use of natural gas in power generation, heating and transport can significantly reduce air pollution.

Air pollution in the urban environment has become a top priority for local, national and international governments in both developed and developing countries as they seek to reduce the severe effects on human health. Around 400,000 deaths across the European Union in 2012 have been attributed to air pollution.

The report shows the correlation between reducing air pollutants and the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, through case studies in Berlin (Germany), Dublin (Ireland), Krakow (Poland) and Rotterdam (The Netherlands).

GHG emissions and air quality have been improved in the four cities by the displacement of coal in power generation, space heating, and increased use of natural gas for inner city transportation.

The report takes into account policies that are improving the air quality without affecting economic development.

“As these case studies demonstrate, switching from coal to gas-fired power is often the fastest and most cost-effective approach to improve air quality and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change,” said David Carroll, president of the IGU.

Natural gas in Berlin’s energy balance has risen from 17 percent in 1990 to 41 percent in 2012. A similar change happened in Dublin, where 67 percent of households use natural gas, which also accounts for over 75 percent of energy demand in the city’s residential sector.

A 2013 survey of air quality by the European Environmental Agency found that Krakow had the third worst air quality of any city in the EU, and the worst of any city with a population over 500,000.

In 2016, Krakow city council introduced a city-wide coal ban with plans to completely phase out coal from home heating by 2019. Krakow’s air pollution reduction program also aims to expand the city’s gas distribution network, modernize its district heating system and promote renewable energy sources for domestic heating.

The report also takes the case of Rotterdam under review, where the air pollution stemmed mostly from port operations, port-related traffic and nearby industrial facilities.

The port turned to LNG as it can reduce NOx emissions by up to 90 percent and SOx and PM emissions by up to 100 percent, the report says.

IGU further added that it supports policies that reduce GHG emissions and emissions of health-damaging air pollutants.