Natural gas-fired electricity generators can provide energy security at domestic military installations in the event of electric grid failures, according to a recent Department of Defense (DoD) study. The study, performed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, assessed the reliability of the gas supply system during power outages. It found there is minimal risk of interrupted deliveries for a moderate outage (two weeks to three months). The report identifies measures to manage the risks associated with longer outages.

To improve energy security, DoD increasingly is installing microgrids as local power networks that utilize distributed energy resources and manage local energy supply and demand. These microgrids can disconnect from the utility grid and operate in an islanded mode when electric grid failures occur. A cost-effective option to fuel generators as part of a microgrid system is to use natural gas; however, the delivery of natural gas is also partially dependent on electricity.

The DoD study found that the natural gas system generally is robust enough to handle moderate outages of two weeks to three months with minimal risk of interrupted deliveries, although longer-term outages would strain the system and could result in increased risks. Beyond duration, the cause, extent, and location of the electric system outage impact potential disruptions in natural gas deliveries.

To minimize the risk associated with using natural gas-fired electricity generators, the report provides recommendations such as installing natural gas generation plants, storing natural gas locally, and signing firm delivery contracts. It also suggests examining the gas supply network to identify potential bottlenecks and recommends that plans to install new generation should include dual-fuel capability. 

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