What is Bridge Fuel?

April 2, 2024

Natural gas has been called a ‘bridge fuel’ for countries looking to transition away from coal and oil dependency.

About Bridge Fuel:

  • Bridge fuel is a commonly-used term for a fuel that will power society with the least environmental cost while we deploy non-polluting, renewable energy.
  • The goal of using a bridge fuel is to replace the bulk of today’s fossil-fuel-dependent energy sources as we transition to a cleaner and more renewable energy economy that is free of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Many people consider natural gas a bridge fuel because it produces less greenhouse gas during the combustion process.
  • However, additional considerations for a bridge fuel include whether it increases national energy independence while reducing pollution-related costs.

Key Facts about Natural Gas:

  • Natural gas is a fossil fuel and a nonrenewable resource. It is a mixture of gases which are rich in hydrocarbons.
  • It is a colorless and odorless gas composed of 70-90% methane (CH4). Its other ingredients include ethane (C2 H6) and propane (C3 H8).
    • Possible impurities include carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and nitrogen (N).
  • How did natural gas form?
    • Millions to hundreds of millions of years ago, the remains of plants and animals (such as diatoms) built up in thick layers on the earth’s surface and ocean floors, sometimes mixed with sand, silt, and calcium carbonate. Over time, these layers were buried under sand, silt, and rock.
    • Pressure and heat changed some of this carbon- and hydrogen-rich material into coal, some into oil (petroleum) and some into natural gas.
    • Natural gas reserves are deep inside the earth, near other solid and liquid hydrocarbon beds like coal and crude oil.
  • Uses:
    • It is not used in its pure form; it is processed and converted into cleaner fuel for consumption.
      • Many by-products are extracted while processing natural gas, like propane, ethane, butane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc, which can be further used.
    • It is mainly used as a fuel for generating electricity and heat. Natural gas in compressed form is used as fuel for vehicles, which is known as CNG
    • It is used as fuel for boilers and air conditioners It is also used for making fertilizers also, mainly ammonia.
  • Hailed as a cleaner energy source than other fossil fuels, especially coal, natural gas has a lesser climate impact than coal because it emits 50 percent less CO2 into the atmosphere.