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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Natural Gas Has Replaced Over 100 U.S. Coal Plants In The Last Decade

A total of 103 coal-fired power plants were converted to natural gas or replaced by natural gas-fired plants in the United States since 2011, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.

Natural gas has displaced the majority of the 121 coal-fired plants that have been converted to burning other types of fuels over the past decade, according to EIA estimates.  

A decade ago, at the end of 2010, the U.S. had 316.8 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity in the United States. By the end of 2019, as much as 49.2 GW of that capacity was retired, another 14.3 GW had the boiler converted to burn natural gas, and 15.3 GW was replaced with natural gas combined cycle.

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Low natural gas prices amid abundant supply, stricter emission regulations, and more efficient technology of the natural gas turbines were the key reasons why natural gas has been increasingly replacing coal-fired capacity in the United States.  

Most conversions at coal-fired power plants took place in the eastern part of the United States, as the coal fleet there were good candidates for conversion because they were predominantly plants with smaller capacities and in operation for more than 50 years, the EIA said.

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Coal plant conversions will continue, according to the EIA, because of the low natural gas prices and the stricter emission standards. In the future, conversions will take place mostly in the Midwest and Southeast.

According to EIA data, U.S. coal production and consumption have been on a decline since peaking in 2008 and 2007, respectively. Last year, for example, U.S. coal production hit its lowest level since 1978, while coal consumption dropped to the lowest since 1975.

The rise of renewables and declining coal electricity generation resulted in energy consumption from renewables in the United States surpassing in 2019 coal consumption for the first time since 1885, the EIA said earlier this year. Last year, total U.S. renewable energy consumption increased by 1 percent compared to 2018, while coal consumption slumped by almost 15 percent year on year.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on August 05 2020 said:
    The US shale oil revolution has transformed the United States from a natural gas importing country into the world’s largest producer.

    And with plentiful and cheap gas, the United States has been converting or replacing hundreds of its coal-fired power plants into cleaner gas-fired ones.

    Natural gas has become the pivot for global energy transition from oil and gas to renewable energy. As oil replaced coal and natural gas replaced oil for electricity generation so will renewable electricity particularly solar electricity eventually replace gas.

    This is a natural progression dictated by common sense, cost and environmental concerns without the need for mandatory environmental measures and without the militancy and dogmatism of environmental activists and oil and gas asset divestment campaigners.

    For now, we’re in an era of energy diversification where alternative sources to fossil fuels, notably renewables, are growing alongside—not at the expense of—the incumbents.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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