Earth Science - Other

What is Natural Gas



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Natural gas is what powers a lot of our vehicles, warms our homes, cooks our food and holds together our economy.

Natural gas is any gas that is produced without any intervention by man. The natural gas that we extract to use as fuel consists primarily of methane but including significant quantities of ethane, butane, propane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, helium and hydrogen sulfide. In fact the gas that we "release" is also methane, which can also be classified as natural. After all, we don't intervene with our own digestion.

Gas is found in oil fields and natural gas fields as well as in coal beds. Methane-rich gases are produced by the anaerobic decay of non-fossil organic material. Sources include swamps, marshes, and landfills, as well as sewage sludge and manure by way of anaerobic digesters, in addition to enteric fermentation particularly in cattle.

The primary component of natural gas is methane (CH4), the shortest and lightest hydrocarbon molecule. It also contains gaseous hydrocarbons such as ethane (C2H6), propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10), as well as other gases that contain sulfur in different quantities. Natural gas also contains helium.
The major difficulty in the use of natural gas is transportation and storage because of its low density. Natural gas pipelines are economical, but are impractical across oceans. Many existing pipelines in the northern hemisphere are reaching their full capacities, thus forcing governments to invent new methods for transportation of gas.

LNG carriers can be used to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) across oceans, while tank trucks can carry liquefied or compressed natural gas (CNG) over shorter distances. They may transport natural gas directly to end-users, or to distribution points such as pipelines for further transport. Requiring additional facilities for liquefaction or compression at the production point of the gas, and then gasification or decompression at end facilities or into a pipeline. This whole process although effective, is very time consuming and is costly.

Natural gas is a major source of electricity generation through the use of gas turbines and steam turbines. A good efficiency can be obtained by combining gas turbines with a steam turbine in combined cycle mode. Natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, and produces less greenhouse gas per unit of energy released. For an equivalent amount of heat, burning natural gas produces about 30% less carbon dioxide than burning petroleum and about 45% less than burning coal.

So even though passing gas can be considered rude at times, it is in fact what makes our everyday lives easier, by supplying us with electricity and locomotion.

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