Great article on how the natural gas revolution is influencing electric power in the US, and how coal plants are threatened more by gas than by the EPA..
Some people quoted in this article say that if gas hits $3 – $3.25 / thousand cu. ft. then it makes more sense to burn coal… others quote as high as $6 / thousand cu. ft. The first quote is a plant in Kentucky with local coal sources.. I wonder if retrofit costs are included in these estimates?
For some numbers, natural gas is usually quoted in these units:
thousand cubic feet = Mcf
It is currently trading around $2.86/ Mcf … you can find current prices here
It is hard to compare this directly to other forms of energy, since volume is not energy. To convert to energy (measured in BTU) multiply by 1,023. Then we can compare to current prices of oil, and coal:
These are rough estimates, especially for coal, since the prices vary greatly by region, and different types of coal also have different amounts of energy (btu) in them. Also, I don’t think transport costs to deliver coal are included in these prices… but I think it gives you a rough idea of prices and price parity between the different sources.
Another big caveat that would favor natural gas even more is that the powerplant efficiency for natural gas is generally higher than coal. Another way to say this is that when you burn natural gas, more of that energy is converted to electricity because of the way the plants are designed, but I think this varies quite a bit from plant to plant..
From wikipedia: ” a large coal-fueled electrical generating plant peaks at about 46%. The largest diesel engine in the world peaks at 51.7%. In a combined cycle plant, thermal efficiencies are approaching 60%.”
If you want the version that you can change the prices, check it here (obviously anyone can change the prices… so the numbers in this version might be weird – see the version that can’t be changed above)