Introduction to long-term use of natural gas in US

Published on: 

This article is the first of a series on how natural gas is affecting the North American industrial gas turbine market, and whether the new gas turbines and future combined cycles can make the future more promising.

An abundant, long term and reasonably priced supply of natural gas (NG) is essential, vital and necessary for future installation of new gas turbines (GTs) and combined cycles (CCs) for electric power generation here in North America (Canada, US and through Mexico). Thanks to George Mitchell and Halliburton and their stubbornness in developing new horizontal drilling and sectional fracturing technology just a few years ago, we now are producing such a supply through this horizontal drilling and fracking.

At first, there were many skeptics about such a prolonged production required, but production is definitely here to stay. US TV ads by the US NG industry are now boasting about the fact that the US now leads the World in NG production with a projected 100-year supply and that in a few years will be the leader in crude oil production as well. Complete North American oil independence could be a reality in perhaps 10 years. The US could start exporting liquified NG and crude soon.


We should all give due thanks to Nikola Tesla for giving our World AC power a little over a century ago. Civilization has come a long way the past 115 years as a result. We in the US ran out of NG about a decade ago and this somewhat curtailed GTs and CCs but now they are on a roll. Moreover, this new resurrected supply of NG and associated crude oil has done more than anything else to help our nation recover from its recent economic slump and without any appreciable governmental action. This happening is also having a most positive economic trickle-down effect around the world.

This blog is about our present North American supply of fuel and the future of advanced GTs and CCs that are being developed for the market to burn this new abundant low cost supply of NG. Coal is now being used to produce over half of our electric power here in the US and is expected to continue to be used for several more years because of the large capital investment made by the power companies and secondly because of the large number of workers employed to be considered to mine this source of fuel.

Coal plants to be phased out

The US EPA is putting more and more pressure on the electric utility companies to accelerate their cleanup of HAPs and to reduce CO2 emissions. Natural gas is the answer by applying 60 percent plus efficient CCs that are clean burning and produce less than half the CO2 but it will take time for the full conversion. All new North American base load electric power plants will no doubt be CCs and the dirty coal plants will be phased out. This could take, maybe, 15 years.

Now that the midterm US election is over and the Republicans now control both the House and the Senate, many of the energy people hope that the Canadian XL Keystone pipeline across the border will become a reality and that US drilling for oil and gas will at last be given the green light for places around Florida, on the East coast, the West coast and on public lands. If not, it will take another two years for the next Presidential election.

In the next article, the author explores the gas turbine manufacturer’s response to the resurrection of US natural gas production, and the New Mexican laws for oil and gas production.

(Ivan G. Rice was past chairman of the South Texas Section of ASME (1974 - 75), past chairman of the ASME Gas Turbine Division (now IGTI) (1975 - 76). A Life Fellow Member of ASME and Life Member of NSPE/TSPE, he has authored many articles and ASME papers on gas turbines, inter-cooling, reheat, HRSGs, steam cooling and steam injection.)