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Is Natural Gas Renewable?

Natural gas has long been a significant energy source in the United Kingdom and around the world. Natural gas use is for powering homes, businesses and industries.

This gas is a fossil fuel and fossil fuels are natural hydrocarbon-containing materials found in the Earth’s crust. It consists of a mixture made up of methane, ethane, propane, and butane.

It’s worth mentioning that there are various types of natural gases and deposits; some are found on land and others are found offshore.

To avoid confusion, fossil fuels in liquid form are called oils (i.e. crude oil), while fossil fuels in the gaseous state are natural gas.

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How is natural gas extracted?

Drilling rigs are used to extract gas from underground natural gas reservoirs (often found close to oil reserves). The extracted natural gas is then processed to remove any impurities. It is further separated from different hydrocarbons and is thus known as “pipeline quality” natural gas. The gas is then transported through a vast grid of pipelines to various end-users and energy suppliers.

Renewability of Natural Gas

First things first, natural gas is not considered a renewable energy source.

As mentioned, natural gas is a fossil fuel (other fossil fuels are coal and crude oil), which means it is formed over millions of years from the remains of decomposed animal and plant matter. This organic material undergoes immense heat and pressure within the Earth’s crust.

Natural gas processing is slow and the current rate of consumption far exceeds the rate of its production. While natural gas has played an important role in the global energy mix due to its abundance and versatility, it is considered a limited resource.

Renewable energy sources, on the other hand, are derived from natural processes that are “refilled” within a relatively short period, making them more sustainable and renewable in the long run. Examples of such sources are:

  • Solar power
  • Wind power
  • Hydropower
  • Geothermal energy
  • Biomass/Biofuel
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  1. Electricity: Natural gas plays a crucial role in generating electricity. Gas-fired power plants use steam (released from burning natural gas that heats water) to drive turbines that generate power.

  2. Heating: One of the most common uses of natural gas is for heating households and businesses. It is widely used for central heating systems and hot water systems.
  3. Industry: Many industrial processes and businesses rely on natural gas as a fuel or power source. It is used in manufacturing industries such as metal smelting, glass production, and food processing (to name a few).
  4. Transport: Natural gas is also used as a transportation fuel. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) are used in certain vehicles as opposed to traditional gasoline or diesel.

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What Are The Environmental Impacts Of Natural Gas?

While natural gas is considered a “cleaner” fossil fuel when compared to coal or crude oil, it does have an impact on the environment. When burned, natural gas releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. This results in more greenhouse gas emissions. Methane – the main component of natural gas – is a potent greenhouse gas and is released during the extraction process.

In some instances, it can contain high levels of hydrogen sulfide. This associated gas is highly toxic and is unworthy of sale or transport. To get rid of this, gas-fired power plants “burn” the natural gas at well sites, resulting in more CO2 and air pollution released into the atmosphere.

But as the world becomes more environmentally conscious, there is an increased focus on renewable energy sources. The effect of how long any natural gas producer will be able to support energy demands has been a topic of great discussion. Natural gases are finite energy sources and the natural gas industry is seeking alternative ways to generate electricity through renewable means.

What’s The Difference Between Non-Renewable And Renewable Natural Gas?

There are three main differences between non-renewable and renewable natural gases. These differences lie in their sources, production and overall environmental impacts.



These natural gases are derived from decomposed organic matter, such as plants and animals that form in the Earth’s crust. They have been widely used to power our homes and businesses and are found in underground reservoirs. They are considered a limited energy source.


Renewable gases are formed by organic matter, such as food waste, agriculture residue and sewerage through a process called anaerobic digestion. Since the primary source of this energy is waste materials, it is easily replenished.



The process for reaching non-renewable gas is by drilling and extracting natural gas from underground reserves. Gas is then transported through a network of pipes to energy providers, who filter this into the electrical grid to power our cities and towns.


The production of renewable gases involves capturing methane emissions from organic waste, such as landfills and agricultural waste.



When non-renewables are burned, they release CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere. While these are “cleaner” when compared to burning oil and coal, it does have a negative impact towards climate change and global warming.


Renewables have the advantage of being “carbon-neutral” in their production process. Organic waste already naturally releases methane as it decomposes. Capturing these emissions and converting them into energy sources prevents them from entering the atmosphere. This energy-efficient method helps reduce the overall environmental impact.

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Where Does Renewable Natural Gas Come From?

Renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane or green gas, is organic materials and waste sourced from various renewable sources. Biogas is a pipeline-quality fuel that has non-methane elements removed or reduced. It is essentially a man-made variation of sorts when compared to ‘typical’ natural gases.

Biogas is produced through a biochemical process called anaerobic digestion. This process occurs in the absence of oxygen and involves the breaking down of organic matter by microorganisms. This organic matter is contained in a controlled environment under immense pressure and heat. The usual renewable sources that are used are:

  • Food waste (landfills)
  • Agricultural residues (i.e. manure)
  • Sewerage

As the natural material decomposes, it releases biogas. This ‘new gas’ releases methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) as byproducts. The biogas gas is then captured, cleaned and refined to meet the same quality standard as conventional natural gas in the energy market.

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What Are The Environmental Impacts Of Renewable Natural Gas?

In the making of renewable energy sources, natural gas production offers several benefits to the environment.

These include:

  1. RNG is the cleanest burning hydrocarbon fuel, producing only half the amount of carbon dioxide in its emissions.
  2. Reduced methane emissions (greenhouse gases) are crucial for mitigating climate change.
  3. RNG promotes better waste management practices. Capturing methane – from organic decomposed waste in landfills – encourages responsible waste management and reduces the harmful environmental impacts that are associated with landfills.
  4. Embracing renewable natural gas, as opposed to fossil fuels, helps encourage a cleaner and greener future.

In summary, natural gas is a non-renewable fossil fuel that holds significant value to the UK’s energy sector. However, due to its limited availability and climate change concerns, renewable sources are becoming the preferred energy source.

Renewable gases have proven to be more sustainable and easily available; produced from organic waste matter that has a positive impact on the environment.

If you’re considering switching energy suppliers for your business, it’s advised to always compare business utility prices from several energy providers. Business Energy Comparison and our team of expert energy brokers and consultants will help you navigate the energy market and source the best electricity and gas deals for your SME or large business.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of gases make up natural gas?

Natural gas is made up of methane, ethane, butane and propane. All of these gases are odourless, colourless, and highly flammable.

What is the difference between compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas?

Compressed natural gas (CNG) is a form of natural gas that has been compressed at high pressure (around 3,500 pounds per square inch) to reduce its cubic volume. Compressed natural gas is commonly used as environmentally-friendly fuel for vehicles.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a natural gas that has been converted into liquid form. It occurs when natural gas is cooled down to -162 degrees Celcius. This process reduces the volume of natural gas by 600 times, making it easier to store and transport. Liquefied natural gas is used for heating, electricity and transport.