A new study conducted by the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University reports that as more EPA regulations go into effect, natural gas is likely to become even more attractive to utilities than coal.
Co-author of the study, Professor Lincoln Pratson, says that one reason coal will become less desired is the expensive emission controls the coal plants will have to install.
The only pollutant that natural gas plants produce that the EPA regulates are NOx emissions. NOx stands for pollutants which contain NO and NO2, gases formed during combustion.
“Coal plants also produce NOx emissions,” Pratson says, “but they produce SO2 emissions, particulate matter, and mercury emissions as well.”
This means that coal plants will have to install more emission control systems than natural gas plants. Pratson says because of the high price of these control systems, by 2016 - when many of these control systems have to be in place - the price of natural gas can cost up to four times that of coal per megawatt hour of electricity and still be a price effective choice for the utility companies.