Advantages of Natural Gas
What Is Natural Gas?
Natural gas (NG) is a mixture of gases that was formed from fossil remains of plants and animals that are buried deep below the Earth’s surface. Therefore NG is also a fossil fuel. All types of fuel are either in a liquid, gas, or solid state. Coal is in a solid state where oil and gasoline are in liquid form. When a liquid reaches its boiling temperature, it becomes a gas. Although we use the word “gas” for gasoline, it isn’t actually in the gas state, but is a liquid. On the other hand, natural gas is truly a “gas.” Natural gas is composed primarily of methane, although it also contains ethane, propane, and traces of other gases. Depending on where it is extracted, it varies between 87% & 96% methane with about 1.5% to 5% ethane, and .1% to 1.5% propane. Methane is actually an odorless and a colorless gas. But if you have smelled natural gas, you have noticed it has a nasty rotten egg smell. Gas companies add a chemical that is called mercaptan to the gas so it will have this unpleasant smell. The reason for adding this smelly chemical is for our safety. It can be deadly if you breath too much of it. The smell alerts us if there is a natural gas leak. There are a number of advantages of natural gas over other fossil fuels as will be pointed out in the following information.
Natural Gas is Better For, And Friendlier To Our Environment
One of the primary advantages of natural gas over other fossil fuel is that it is much friendlier to the environment. What I mean is it emits fewer emissions into the atmosphere when it is burned than other fossil fuels do. In fact NG is the cleanest burning fuel in existence today. For same amount of heat produced, natural gas emits 30% less carbon dioxide than burning oil and 45% less carbon dioxide than burning coal, thereby, improving the quality of air. The primary products that result from the combustion of natural gas are carbon dioxide and water vapor. This is exactly what we release when we breathe.
Many of the pressing environmental problems we have been fighting are a result of the dirtier burning fossil fuels. Since natural gas is the cleanest burning of all the fossil fuels, there are many ways it can be used in our society to diminish the pollutants that are emitted into our atmosphere. The more we switch to these applications, the more we remove those harmful particulates from our environment.
The reason other fossil fuels release more harmful particles into the atmosphere is their molecular composition. If you use natural gas to cook, you will notice that when you burn it, unlike other petroleum products, it doesn’t produce any smoke. Coal and oil contain more complex molecules, which have a higher carbon ratio. They also have a higher content of nitrogen and sulfur. That’s why they release higher levels of harmful emissions into our environment. In addition, coal and fuel oil release particles of ash into the atmosphere. These are what contribute to pollution. On the other hand, natural gas releases very small amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and essentially no ash or particulate matter. It also releases much lower levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other hydrocarbons.
Here are some other environmental benefits to using natural gas. When producing electricity, natural gas powered plants use about 60% less water than coal plants and 75% less later than nuclear power plants for the same electrical output. Additionally, natural gas power plants require the least amount of land per megawatt of production versus renewable energy sources. Wind and solar both require twenty times more land to power the same number of homes as natural gas power-plants.
Natural gas used for power production avoids many of the pitfalls facing wind, solar, nuclear, and biofuel power generation technologies. Those include visual impact, waste disposal, bird strikes and competing land uses.
In the production of electricity, natural gas responds more quickly than any other generation source in responding to fluctuations in U.S. consumer electricity demand. In fact, natural gas powered generation reliably backs up wind generated electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and solar generated electricity when the sun doesn’t shine.
Natural gas burns very hot
Natural gas also gives off a lot of heat as it burns very hot. This property of natural gas makes it good for heating homes and for cooking. NG has a high heating value of 24,000 Btu per pound. As a result, more than 60 million, or about half of the homes in the United States are heated by natural gas. Here are some of the household applications of natural gas:
· Clothes Dryers
· Water Heaters
· Fireplace Logs
· Patio Heaters
· Pool and Spa Heaters
· Fire Pits
· Outdoor Lights
Natural gas is easier and safer to store
Natural gas is much safer to store than other fossil fuels. As a result, it is a very efficient source of energy for heating as well as generating electricity. Natural gas can be stored in liquid form in above ground tanks, but a majority of the reserves in the U.S. are stored underground. Most of the storage in the United States is in depleted natural gas or oil fields that are located near consumption centers. The reason these are used is their wide availability. It works quite well to convert a field from production to storage because they can take advantage of existing wells, gathering systems, and pipeline connections.
Natural gas is very reliable
This gas is also very reliable. Unlike electricity in many areas, natural gas is buried beneath the ground. Therefore when storms hit, the delivery of natural gas is seldom interrupted. That is especially important in extreme cold, where electrical power is often knocked out.
Natural gas is a cost-effective fuel
When gasoline reached well over $4.00 per gallon, natural gas was close to the $2.00 per equivalent gallon price. The law of supply and demand kicks in. With new technology, shale natural gas, which is very prevalent in the United States, has become a popular alternative. With the price so affordable, it pays for many trucking companies to convert their fleets over to natural gas from diesel. With auto makers teaming up with Westport engine manufacturing, we should see an increase in natural gas trucks for sale. Even taxi cab companies are converting their gasoline cars to natural gas.
There is an abundance of Natural Gas
We now have more than a 100 year supply of clean burning natural gas that we didn’t even know about just a few short years ago. Plus, most of the natural reserves of natural gas fields are still underutilized. With shale natural gas playing into the picture, our supply has become huge. It is estimated that the Marcellus Shale alone, which is in the Appalachian Basin, contains close to 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that is recoverable. The Marcellus Shale underlies a good portion of Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Ohio and adjacent states. The Marcellus natural gas supply is also in close proximity to the high demand markets of New York, New Jersey and New England. There are a number of other natural gas reservoirs scattered around other parts of the country. These shale natural gas reservoirs are now all accessible through the technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking, which is a safe method of extracting natural gas.
Domestic production of natural gas lessens our dependency on foreign oil
As the production of domestic fuel supplies increases, it loosens the noose that foreign oil has around our necks and makes us much less dependent upon them. The less dependent we are on imported fuel, the better off we are. By being more energy independent, it brings down the cost of foreign sources of energy. It also creates a lot more jobs in our own economy. God knows we need that.
Natural gas is a means for improved national security
You may wonder what national security has to do with the production of natural gas. Actually, it can have huge national security implications. When we become more and more dependent on foreign sources for our energy, we not only become a slave to the prices that are demanded, but if they choose to shut off our supply, it could cripple our power. The sooner we become energy independent the better. Not only is the supply of natural gas important in light of national security, but the production of domestic oil as well. Although this is only one of the many advantages of natural gas, it is (or should be) high on the priority list.
Economic Benefits of Natural Gas
The U.S. supply of natural gas is enhancing the global competitiveness of the United States. It is creating tens of thousands of well-paying jobs while expanding our nation’s capacity for generating a cleaner burning fuel and by generating affordable electric power. More than 85% of all new electrical generation built in the U.S. in the last decade uses natural gas to generate that electricity.
According to the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA), activities related to the development of natural gas contributed $385 billion to the U.S. economy in 2008. Between 2005 and 2010, the U.S. government received royalty payments by the natural gas industry in the amount of $4.4 billion.
In the middle of the economic downturn in America, many areas of the country have been revived due to the surging shale gas production. These areas include Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Montana, Arkansas, and North Dakota. According to HIS Global Insight, the natural gas industry directly employs 622,000 Americans, and another 2.2 million are employed in supporting industries.
As you can see, there are many advantages of natural gas. There are some challenges and some obstacles to natural gas moving forward. As with most areas of life, when there are advantages, there are also disadvantages. It’s always best to look at both sides before drawing any final conclusions. I encourage you to also read up on the disadvantages of natural gas.