Thursday 28 April 2011

Natural Gas - The Facts

The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, a gas composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Millions of years ago, the remains of plants and animals decayed and built up in thick layers. Over time, the sand and silt changed to rock, covered the organic material, and trapped it beneath the rock. Pressure and heat changed some of this organic material into coal, some into oil, and some into natural gas — tiny bubbles of odorless gas.In some places, gas escapes from small gaps in the rocks into the air; then, if there is enough activation energy from lightning or a fire, it burns. When people first saw the flames, they experimented with them and learned they could use them for heat and light.

How Do We Get Natural Gas?

The search for natural gas begins with geologists, who study the structure and processes of the Earth. They locate the types of rock that are likely to contain gas and oil deposits.

Today, geologists' tools include seismic surveys that are used to find the right places to drill wells. Seismic surveys use echoes from a vibration source at the Earth’s surface (usually a vibrating pad under a truck built for this purpose) to collect information about the rocks beneath. Sometimes it is necessary to use small amounts of dynamite to provide the vibration that is needed.

Scientists and engineers explore a chosen area by studying rock samples from the earth and taking measurements. If the site seems promising, drilling begins. Some of these areas are on land but many are offshore, deep in the ocean. Once the gas is found, it flows up through the well to the surface of the ground and into large pipelines.

Some of the gases that are produced along with methane, such as butane and propane (also known as "by-products"), are separated and cleaned at a gas processing plant. The by-products, once removed, are used in a number of ways. For example, propane when stored in a liquid from is an alternative for people who do not have a natural gas supply and is normally stored in a large tank outside your home, this is know as LPG or Liquified Propane Gas.

We can also use machines called "digesters" that turn today's organic material (plants, animal wastes, etc.) into natural gas. This process replaces waiting for millions of years for the gas to form naturally.

How Does The Gas Get To Me?
Natural gas is moved by pipelines from the producing fields to consumers. Because natural gas demand is greater in the winter, it is stored along the way, you may have seen the large storage tanks near you, large round tanks that rise and fall depending on the amount of gas inside. The gas remains there until it is added back into the pipeline when people begin to use more gas, such as in the winter to heat homes.

How Is Natural Gas Used?

How Natural Gas Is Used

Natural gas is used to produce steel, glass, paper, clothing, brick, electricity and as an essential raw material for many common products. Some products that use natural gas as a raw material are: paints, fertilizer, plastics, antifreeze, dyes, photographic film, medicines, and explosives.

A majority of homes in the UK use natural gas as their main heating fuel, if they are connected to the national grid. Natural gas is also used in homes to fuel stoves, water heaters, clothes dryers, and other household appliances.

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