We need power to electrify our homes, to run our most efficient appliances, to power our vehicles to warm our homes and for many other small purposes. For all this we use various sources of energy. One of them is natural gas which contributes significantly to the world’s energy supply. Many of us tend to confuse natural gas with gasoline which is used extensively to power our vehicles. However these two gases are completely different. Natural gas is actually colorless and odorless in its purest form and it is combustible. It is one of cleanest sources of fossil fuels which gives lot energy and less of emissions.
The first mention of natural gas was found in the writings of Plutarch around 100 to 125 A.D. as “eternal fires” in the area of Iraq. It was being released from the cracks in the ground and since it was combustible, when lighting struck, it got ignited. William A. Hart drilled a well of 27 feet in 1821 in Fredonia, New York. This was an intentional effort of obtaining natural gas. In the 19th century, natural gas mainly found use as a fuel for lighting up lamps in the streets. Lack of pipelines to carry the gas limited its use only as street lamp burning fuel and it could not reach the homes. This led the gas producers to hunt new markets for natural gas. The “Bunsen burner” was discovered by Robert Bunsen in the year 1885 which used a mixture of natural gas and air as the burning fuel. This also gave rise to the idea of using natural gas for warming homes and cooking food. One of the lengthiest pipelines of 120 miles for carrying natural gas was built in the year 1891. It carried natural gas from central Indiana to Chicago. Before 1940 World War 2, the numbers of gas pipelines were few. As welding techniques and metal treatments improved, pipeline making for natural gas transportation became more prevalent. In U.S after the World War II, proper network of pipelines were constructed for carrying natural gas. In the present day the network is twice as long as the distance between earth and moon.
The maximum reserves of natural gases are found in Russia. The Middle East countries also contribute significantly in the production of natural gas. But U.S.A. is the largest consumer of natural gas in the whole world. In the last two decades the demands of natural gas in U.S.A have increased by 25%. And it shows a continuous growth as well. As a result of this they have designed better ways of storing the natural gas after extraction.
Natural gas is a mixture of gases. It primarily contains Methane up to 70 to 90%. It can also include Ethane, Propane, Butane, Carbon dioxide, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Hydrogen sulphide and some rare gases. Among these, the percentage of Propane varies from 0 to 20%, rest all vary from 0.2 to 5%. The natural gas that you use in your home mainly consists of methane, which is a hydrocarbon having one single atom of Carbon bonded to 4 atoms of Hydrogen. A small amount of Mercaptan is added which renders the smell of rotten eggs to natural gas for detecting any kind of leaks. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that is formed from the remains of animals, plants and microorganisms that lived over 300 millions of years back. There are quite a number of theories that supports the formation of natural gases.
Natural gas is a non renewable source of energy, but at the same time it is the most environment friendly and clean source of energy among the fossil fuels. The burning of natural gas to produce heat involves least emissions of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide. They find use as a fuel in the conventional steam boilers. It is being used in the power plants as the primary fuel. The combustion turbines are based on the principles of jet engine. The natural gas before entering the combustion chamber is superheated. This superheated gas is then made to pass through pipes under tremendous pressure. In a combined cycle technology two electric generators are coupled. In this method the same amount of natural gas is used to generate twice the amount of electricity that would had been produced earlier. High levels of efficiency can be achieved by this mode of action.
The uses of natural gases are promoted by many nations because of its clean nature of burning. It is used in power sectors and manufacturing sectors extensively.
Methane, which is one of the main components of natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane has the property to trap heat 21 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide which is released as a result of burning coal. But according to the report prepared by Energy Information Administration, it has been found that Methane constitutes of only 1.1% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. And all the Methane that is released into the atmosphere is not contributed by natural gas combustion. Research conducted to analyze the Marcellus shale gas, found out that natural gas release 20 to 50% less greenhouse gases than coal generated emissions. Natural gas hardly releases any particulate matter into the atmosphere. The levels of nitrogen oxides released into the air are also significantly low. The price of natural gas is lower than all the other fossilized fuels. Natural gas resources are found in plenty in the world. So a judicious use would ensure that these reserves last longer.
The biggest limitation of natural gas is that it is a non renewable energy, it would not last very long although the natural gas reserves are found in abundance. But like any other fossil fuel reserve it is a dwindling resource and it cannot be replenished once the reserves are depleted. The price of the natural gas maybe varying in order to keep the fuel under good amount of pressure. This can be a setback for using natural gas as fuel for running vehicles. The pressure tanks used for storage of natural gas can pose a problem. The weight and size of the pressure tanks get affected due to less space. As a result of this the fuel economy gets affected adversely.
The natural gas is one of the most technologically advanced sectors in the world. The recent technologies used in the natural gas sectors are discussed below.
State lawmakers of U.S.A. are trying to catch up with the natural gas drilling trend. A new law in Pennsylvania can possibly reduce the abilities and authorities of municipalities. This is done in order to regulate hydraulic fracturing techniques to some extent. The local regulations stating the extent of drilling rigs, the noise levels and distances from buildings can vary from one community to the other. In New York, the state Department of Environmental Conservation refused the permit issue for shale gas wells drilling technique. The technique involved blasting water that was chemical-laced. Many environmentalists consider that hydraulic fracturing can poison water supplies. However the natural gas industries say that this is a safe technique. Natural gas may not be the cleanest source of energy but it is the only abundant form of fossil fuel, which is relatively cleaner than the other non renewable sources of fossil fuel energy. This is the reason why natural gas is always a better option than crude oil or coal.