Natural Gas Reduces Water Consumption In Power Generation

Natural gas-fired power plants are not only more energy efficient than traditional sources, but have significantly reduced water consumption in electricity generation over the last decade, according to a recent analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Water plays a key role in power generation as it is used for cooling steam from the thermoelectric turbines. Water management is already a priority for nations worldwide, and natural gas has proven yet again to be a determining factor in not only in helping reduce emissions but being more water-conscious.

Water’s Role in Electricity Generation

According to the EIA, water withdrawals for electricity generation increased by only .3 percent in 2021, yet electricity generation increased by 2.5 percent during the same timeframe.

In fact, water withdrawals from the electric power sector have decreased overall since 2014. This improved water efficiency is due, in part, to the increased use of natural gas to generate electricity as natural gas-powered facilities use more water-efficient technology.

Source: Energy Information Administration

Thermoelectric plants, which make up nearly three quarters of utility scale electricity generation in the United States, use steam to spin turbines and generate electricity. These plants take water from local rivers, lakes, or oceans to cool that steam and repeat the cycle.

In 2021, 47.7 trillion gallons of water were used in domestic electricity

How Natural Gas Stacks up

According to the EIA, natural gas plants use 584 percent less water than traditional plants on average. Natural gas plants withdraw an average of 2,803 gallons per megawatt hour produced whereas coal-fired plants withdraw 19,185 gal/MWh. As the most water-intensive plants make up a smaller portion of the electricity generation mix, water withdrawals will continue to decrease.

Notably, the increase in water withdrawals in 2021 was a direct result of more megawatts of electricity being produced by traditional plants in 2021 than in 2020.

Bottomline: Water management and efficiently allocating water resources are an important part of a community’s risk management. Natural gas plants in the United States, which use water-efficient technology, are helping to reduce the water withdrawals associated with electricity production, which is especially important in communities where water scarcity is an issue.

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