There’s a Role for Natural Gas on the Path to Net-Zero

Many eyes are on Washington, D.C., as the White House and Congress wrestle with infrastructure renewal and clean energy priorities. How these national priorities get translated into programs and spending will play a pivotal role in incentivizing actions and in shaping markets.

That said, investments are inherently executed locally by companies, local governments and the like. This is borne out in communities across Texas where natural gas infrastructure systems — local utilities and pipelines — are operationalizing decarbonization and economic aspirations.

Through relentless innovation, the United States reoriented geopolitics by bringing natural gas shale resources to market, and we changed the world for the better. Now, we have the potential to repeat by applying that same dedication and vigor toward a low-carbon, low-cost energy future.

I am bullish about our country’s ability to lead in clean energy, as well as the role that natural gas systems and the people that operate them will play in energy transitions; they are already primed to solve complex challenges and deliver secure, reliable, affordable and resilient energy to communities. Those competencies are vital to energy transitions.

There are many pathways for advancing clean energy. Among those, we must pursue production and use of lower-carbon gases, which requires demonstration and verification of emissions reductions from natural gas systems. We also need to continue to scale bioenergy production, such as industrial-scale production of renewable natural gas and hydrogen that uses biomass gasification systems to convert waste streams such as timber, agricultural and plastic into low-carbon molecules. Large-scale demonstrations of these processes will be vital to driving costs down for use applications in homes, buildings, transport and industry.

And as we pursue broad deployment of hydrogen, in particular, we need to better understand how hydrogen will affect current equipment and infrastructure, as well as how that infrastructure can be leveraged in energy transitions. Community and regional collaborations are needed to demonstrate how this will work. To this end, the Gas Technology Institute, Frontier Energy, the University of Texas-Austin, the U.S. Department of Energy and other partners are engaged in the H2@SCALE-Texas project to explore how existing systems can produce, move, store and use hydrogen integrated with other energy sources. In this initiative, we will design, build and operate a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure network, as well as study the potential for the Port of Houston to serve as a cornerstone for industrial decarbonization in the state.

By engaging an array of stakeholders, the H2@Scale-Texas project is an example of how community-scale collaboration in research and planning can serve energy transitions nationwide. The pathways we take will vary, as will the technologies we deploy. But by maintaining a people-focused approach and keeping communities in our line of sight, we can ensure economic growth and job creation amidst these transitions.

Collaboration is vital to building low-carbon, low-cost energy systems that are reliable, secure, affordable and resilient. And the people involved in the natural gas industry have an extraordinary opportunity to embrace a bold vision of that future, to build conversations around that shared vision and to identify how to act on it. The time is now for an all-hands-on-deck approach to ensuring continued leadership both in Texas and nationwide in our mission to address climate change and build an affordable, low-carbon future for all.


Dr. Paula Gant is the senior vice president for strategy and innovation at the Gas Technology Institute and a former official in the Obama administration’s U.S. Department of Energy.

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