Natural gas as the name suggests occurs in nature. Formed by decomposing plant and animal fossil matter accumulated and pressurized under the earth’s surface over millions of years. The intense heat that the fossils are exposed to releases energy stored in the form of chemical bonds they had obtained while on the earth’s surface.
Found sometimes as deep as 4500 meters under the earth’s surface, natural gas is found trapped in sedimentary rocks in close proximity with petroleum. It’s always associated with hydrocarbon coal bed reservoirs.
Natural gas is created in two ways, Biogenic and Thermogenic. Biogenic natural gas is formed from living organisms found in marshes, bogs, and landfills. It is found in shallow rock sediments. Thermogenic natural gas is formed from buried organic matter and is found in deeper rock sediments.
Natural gas consists of methane, propane, butane and ethane gases, the highest percentage is methane. It is lighter than air, colorless and odorless. The smell of rotten eggs (methyl mercaptan) is usually added by utility companies, to make leakages easier to detect.
Natural gas was first used by the Chinese who drilled wells and transported the gas using bamboo pipes to boil saltwater and produce brine. It first came to the attention of the western world when French explorers discovered Native American Indians igniting natural gas seeps.
William Hart dug the first natural gas well near Lake Erie, ushering the era of harnessing natural gas as an important resource.
Over the years it has been heavily commercialized leading to hundreds of commercial and domestic uses.
Natural gas vehicles are the next frontier in the production of clean fuel transportation. First manufactured in the 1930s. The fitting of compressed natural gas(CNG) engine running on pressurized methane has helped Natural gas vehicles to evolve and embrace all sectors of transportation.
CNG vehicle has slowly made tracks in the motor industry, companies like Volkswagen, Mercedes, Citroen Dodge, etc. have slowly increased the manufacturer of CNG vehicle units. These cars cost less than automobiles running on petrol and diesel.
Several countries China, Pakistan, India, South American countries, the USA, Italy and many others have increasingly embraced the use of Natural gas vehicles(NGVs.)
NGV’s are environmentally friendly, due to reduced carbon emissions, have high savings on cost, enjoy extended maintenance intervals, and are operationally flexible. They are ideal in combating climate change. However, their market penetration has been hampered by limited fueling stations.
1. NGV Cars
According to Wikipedia, There are almost 9 million small NGV cars in the world about 120,000 are in the USA which has 1100 fueling stations. Iran has the highest number of NGV cars followed by Pakistan and India. Italy dominates the NGV car market in Europe.
NGV cars have reduced exhaust emissions making them an attractive option for highly polluted cities with worsening air quality. NGV car engines also last longer due to fewer contaminants found in natural gas.
2. Heavy Commercial Vehicles
With the development of stronger more efficient NGV engines for commercial vehicles, Transportation companies, especially in the USA and Canada are slowly incorporating NGV heavy commercial vehicles in their fleets.
New NGV trucks and buses have been developed that are as powerful as their diesel-driven counterparts and produce fewer carbon emissions. Goods, passengers, and products are transported to different destinations at a fraction of the cost without polluting too much air pollution.
3. Agricultural machinery
Tractors are an important component in farming activities, Tractor companies are always striving to develop machinery that is fuel-efficient, economical and environmentally friendly. New Holland Company produced the first methane-powered tractor, paving the way for CNG farm machinery of the future.
The efficiency of CNG farm machinery is their ingenuity. The technology used in CNG tractors uses biomass and natural gas to run more efficiently. It’s durable, has less running costs and is cheaper. Combined with the use of other fuels its unparalleled performance.
4. Boat Fuel
A Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) engine developed for fishing vessels now powers the first prototype twin mercury 300 hp engine mounted Blue Gas marine boat in North Carolina. Running on methane, it is cleaner and friendlier to the environment.
The CNG boat engine has a fueling panel, CNG fuel tanks, pressure regulator, high and low fuel lines with modified electronic controls unit sensors. Injectors have been retrofitted on both Yamaha and Mercury engines and are expected to power the boats of the future.
5. Aeroplane Fuel
The first small plane to fly on CNG was christened Aviat Husky, made to run on both CNG and aviation fuel it flew 1000 miles on its maiden journey, it had a top speed of 143 Miles per hour quite impressive considering that an aviation fueled piper plane has a range of 1300 miles at a top speed of 200 miles per hour.
Using CNG on light aircraft has several advantages, the fuel is cleaner with zero lead emission, it is a timely solution to reducing dangerous emissions in piston-powered light aircraft engines.
CNG engine was retrofitted to power the first CNG powered locomotive operated by the Napa Valley wine train that operates several railroads. In 2008 a new feature was added to the locomotive, a more efficient, cost-effective computer-controlled fuel injection system.
Since 2005 Diesel run locomotives have been converted to run on CNG powered engines in Peru. An installed computer-guided fuel injection system helps fire engines only when there is a demand for power making them fuel-efficient.
7. Gas-Fired Power Generation
The demand for electric power increases by the day, prompting for new and better ways of generating power. Electricity generated by firing gas-run engines is cleaner, cheaper and has lower emissions.
Natural gas-fired generating plants have been put up to tap into this efficient and environmentally friendly resource. Others have been repurposed and gas pipelines reversed to fire existing energy generating plants.
In 2018 electricity generated in the USA using natural gas-powered plants accounted for 29% of all primary energy produced and consumed within the USA. In many parts of the world Middle East, West and North Africa the bulk of electricity consumed are generated from natural gas-powered stations.
The most common and known use of natural gas the world over is cooking. Natural gas pipelines supplying gas for cooking are normal in developed countries. Many other nations are following suit.
Several countries in the Middle East rely on natural gas for domestic cooking. Countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Turkmenistan Trinidad and Tobago, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Algeria Belarus and Oman rely almost 100% on natural gas for domestic cooking.
Natural gas provides better temperature control in both direct cooking and ovens and is a preferred heat source by many chefs in the hotel industry and other commercial cooking activities.
9. Heating water
It’s cheaper to use natural gas in heating water in homes than electricity, Natural gas heats water faster making it more economical and efficient. Most people prefer using natural gas for water in their homes as compared to electricity.
10. Fire Lighting
The fireplace has always been the center of homes, especially in winter. Logs and wood were always a major source of fuel. With the depletion of forests and the increase of carbon emissions a better efficiency, and cleaner source of fuel had to be found.
Fireplaces burning natural gas are cleaner providing the same heat, are healthier and friendlier to the environment. Besides, it has better control of the flame since you can adjust the amount of heat produced.
11. Clothes Dryer
Natural gas clothes dryers are an easy solution for drying clothes, especially in winter. They are cheaper as compared to electricity and can handle a bigger load of clothes at once. This makes them faster than regular electric dryers.
12. Cooling homes
Heating is not the only solution to homes that natural gas provides. During extreme summer heatwaves. Home air conditioning consumes a huge chunk of the electricity bill. Natural gas-powered air conditioning units are economically beneficial to homes.
13. Industrial Heating
Natural gas is used by industries in heat generation required in various industrial processes. Combined with other power systems, natural gas heating is used as a feedstock that breaks down different elements to produce chemicals used in various manufacturing processes.
The most common heating system is the forced air heating, where natural gas burners are used to heat air drawn from outside and forced through the burners and circulated by a blower fan through ductworks to where it’s required.
14. Heat Pump Heating
A Heat pump works like a reverse air conditioner. A heat pump moves heat from the air and transfers it to water or other fluid running through the ductworks or to places that have cooler air. Helping to regulate the temperature in the machinery during manufacturing processes.
15. Makeup air systems
Makeup air systems powered by natural gas are activated dampers that open when the building’s interior is depressurized. Fans, Dryers, Gas fires can create negative pressure. Installing a natural gas-powered Makeup air appliance will increase machinery performance and efficiency.
16. Unit Heaters
Greenhouses use natural gas-fired unit heaters that transfer heat from combustion gases and exhaust fumes to the outside air by a heat exchanger through a flue pipe.
Natural gas-powered unit heaters are a major source of energy use in commercial buildings and many other enclosed environments.
17. Dehumidification and Humidification
Humidification and dehumidification natural gas-powered systems are used to add humidity to the air, water vapor is added into the building when it’s too hot and dry. Dehumidification works in the opposite direction, the system cools humid air and removes vapor from the building.
18. Infrared Heating
Infrared gas-powered heaters act like mini suns. They burn natural gas to generate heat that is then radiated downwards to warm objects, the floor, machinery, components, people and anything that needs warming.
Propane natural gas burns inside a steel tube unit or ceramic surface that encloses the heater. The heat from this surface is emitted in the form of infrared radiant energy just like the sun and radiates downwards to warm everything underneath it.
Natural gas reacts with the panel of ceramic fibers in the platinum catalyst reacting with the oxygen in the air and rapidly increasing the temperature without burning like a flame.
19. Industrial co-firing
Co-firing is a process which combusts two or more materials to burn a new cheaper fuel and more environmentally friendly. Biomass can be co-fired with waste-derived materials, destroying the waste and in the processes producing heat for industrial processes.
In industrial co-firing, natural gas is used as a supplementary fuel in burning coal or other biomass energy-producing fuel like wood. Natural gas improves the operational performance of the boiler as it helps maintain a constant flame temperature. Co-firing is energy efficient and can also be used to generate electricity.
20. Rooftop air conditioning
Rooftop natural gas-powered air ventilation systems are ventilation systems that heat the ambient air when in heating and recirculates the air through the appliances’ heat exchanger which includes two simultaneous air taker dampers mechanically interlocked that help circulates the air.
They are installed on the rooftop and have the advantage of being decentralized ventilation systems.
21. Gas Absorption heat pump
Gas absorption heat pumps are air-source heat pumps powered by natural gas- propane they use ammonia-water absorption cycle to provide heating and cooling as needed.
22. Air Mattresses
Air mattress or airbeds are inflatable PVC mattresses developed using urethane plastic a natural gas product, or other rubber versions. The deflated mattress can be rolled, carried and stored in tight spaces. They are popular with campers and backpackers but can still be used in the home.
They are inflated by blowing in a valve or with a manual foot-powered or electric pump.
23. Manufacture of Fertilizers
Ammonia used as a nitrogen source in fertilizers is produced through synthetic production using natural gas and air. The process is cyclical the hydrogen from methane is used to flash hydro pyrolysis and to produce ammonia.
Coolants remove heat from combustion engines, the anti-freeze in coolants help lower the water’s freezing point and protect the engine against corrosion. Triethylene Glycol Liquid is added to natural gas which prevents water particles from freezing and the pipes from corroding.
25. Artificial grass
Synthetic granules of polyethylene made from natural gas such as ethane are cracked to convert them into ethylene, which is used as a raw material in the manufacture of artificial grass fibers.
26. Hot Air Balloon
Methane a natural gas which is lighter than air is used to fill up air balloons
27. Prosthetic Limbs
Lightweight durable resins from natural gas are a new component in the production of prosthetic limbs. The limbs produced using these resins are highly responsive to the wearer allowing them to reach out or walk naturally.
28. Compressed Natural gas canopies
Gas canopies are made from compressed natural gas.
29. Adhesive Bandages
Adhesive bandages are made from polyethylene and ethylene monomer produced by cracking natural gas which is diluted with steam and put in an oxygen-less furnace to react at temperatures exceeding 850 degrees Celsius to produce the adhesive.
Natural gas plays a big role in the preservation of dead bodies. Formaldehyde is an important substance in the preservation of bodies in the morgue. It is made from natural gas used as a feeding stock converted to a synthetic gas mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide in a process called steam reforming.
Natural gas is exposed as a catalyst causing oxidation which when brought in contact with steam forms a synthetic gas that produces methanol- Methyl Alcohol used to produce formaldehyde.
31. Acetic Acid
Methanol is also used in the production of acetic acid a synthetic acid that has carboxylic acid with antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Methanol a basic raw material in several elements is produced when Natural gas is exposed as a catalyst causing oxidation which when brought in contact with steam forms a synthetic gas that produces methanol.
Methanol a product of natural gas is used as a feedstock in the manufacturing of glue.
Methanol a product of natural gas is used as a feedstock in the manufacturing of Vinegar.
Methanol a product of natural gas is used as a feedstock in the manufacturing of paint.
36. Petroleum Jelly
Natural gas is converted into synthetic gas and light hydrocarbons oil stream and heavy hydrocarbons wax stream. Both hydrocarbons are put through a plurality of paraffin and a plurality of olefins that cause a reaction of paraffin in the presence of a dialkyl peroxide initiator which forms petroleum jelly
Alkylbenzene Sulfonate is an excellent cleaning detergent that gives a lot of foam, it is produced and marketed in powder and liquid form. Made from natural gas – propylene which undergoes a process of attaching to benzene to form alkyl benzene which by sulfonation alkylbenzene sulfonate is produced
38. Manufacture of Steel Piping
Manufacturing steel piping used in oil and gas drilling and steel parts in power plants requires natural gas as feedstock.
39. Preservation of fruit and vegetables
Polyethylene produced from ethylene a natural gas production is used to produce plastic resin packaging material that helps extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
40. Credit cards
The core of credit and debit cards is made from Polyvinyl chloride acetate PVCA resin a natural gas product. The core is laminated with thin layers of PVCA using pressure and heat.
41. Plastic and synthetic fibers
Plastics and synthetic fibers are produced by polymerization, polycondensation and polyaddition of semi-synthetic polymers whose raw material is natural gas, crude oil and chlorine.
42. Production of cosmetics
Saturated hydrocarbon methane products of natural gas mixed with other base ingredients like shark oil are used in the production of cosmetics.
43. Manufacture of Plastic wrap
Plastic wrap is A thin flexible film produced from a transparent polymer from simple hydrocarbons methane and ethylene produced from natural gas, which is used as raw materials in the production of the plastic wrap.
Cellulose, acetate, celluloid used to produce cellophane is a product of natural gas.
45. Cellular Phones
Cell phones have plastics and fiberglass components used in the basic shape of the circuit board. These plastics are products of natural gas and other chemicals.
46. Improved dishwashing liquid
New improved dishwashing liquid product of alkylbenzene sulfonate a product of natural gas has a lot of foam and washes better than most dishwashing substances.
47. Eyeglass frames
In 1869 an American inventor John Wesley Hyatt discovered a synthetic plastic from natural gas which could be mixed with cellulose and plasticized with the addition of camphor to make celluloid.
Celluloid has been used ever since for the manufacture of plastic eyeglass frames
Celluloid a product of synthetic plastic from natural gas is used in the manufacture of celluloid used in the manufacture of plastic combs
49. Billiard balls
Celluloid a product of synthetic plastic from natural gas is used in the manufacture of celluloid used in the manufacture of Billiard balls.
50. Hula Hoops
Hula hoops circular pieces of polyethylene tubing are made from ethylene a product of natural gas ethane.
51. Panty Hose tights
Polyethylene a product of the natural gas ethane is used to produce biodegradable nylon fibers used in the manufacture of pantyhose tights.
Natural gas is a less expensive and cleaner source of energy, but that is not the only benefit it has. Natural gas has many other unlimited uses in the production and manufacture of several products.