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The Case against Natural Gas Generators- Reasons Why They May Not Be the Best Alternative

In building and construction circles across different parts of New York City, there has been a lot of talk about the possible use of natural gas generators as the primary emergency and backup generators in buildings of various occupancies. This discussion has largely been driven by the advantages associated with the use of natural gas which most people feel are significant and far outweigh any drawbacks. Among the arguments made in favor of using natural gas generators is the argument that natural gas being the only fuel that is supplied in the city as a utility service is therefore more readily accessible and possess fewer logistical challenges. There is also no need to store natural gas on location since the gas is readily available and supplied by a pipe system.

Both arguments above that have been made in favor of the use of natural gas generators are quite sound and would be enough to convince most property owners to opt for these generators. So why don’t they? The answer to that question lies somewhere else and can be found in the Building Codes of NYC. Under these building codes, there are only two conditions under which natural gas can be used as the only fuel supply to a generators, as explained below;

  • As primary back up in only specific types of buildings. They can only be used as he main emergency back up in High rise multifamily buildings which fall under Group R-2 occupancies.
  • They have to be separated from all the other gas services in the building using a cut-off valve and that valve must also meet the NYC Fuel Gas Service Code.

These two conditions can be considered as nearly insurmountable even on their own but the problems associated with the use of natural gas generators do not stop there. There are several other disadvantages associated with these types of generators which would make it difficult to deploy and use them, the biggest ones being the following;

  • Compared to diesel generators, natural gas generators call for a huge upfront cost which is needed in order to buy all the equipment needed to get the generators up and running. In fact it is estimated that a natural gas generator will on average cost as much as 20% more than it would cost to set up a diesel generator for any given nameplate capacity.
  • Carbon footprint- another big problem facing the adoption of natural gas generators is the fact that natural gas is not a renewable energy source and does not produce clean energy. For a city that plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% in 45 years starting from 2005 this fact does not make it a very attractive option even though it may be true that its greenhouse emissions are much lower compared to oil and coal.

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