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Even though a big part of new investments is in renewable energy, fossil fuels are still the backbone of the world’s energy supply. There is an undeniable shift toward renewable energy use. The vast availability of fossil sources and the current infrastructure makes that shift quite subtle. However, since fossil fuels are finite, a complete switch to renewable sources is inevitable. Until then, the use of fossil fuels will remain mainstream.
Natural gas is one of the most commonly used fossil fuels and, it supplied 24% of the world’s energy needs in 2020. In this article, we’ve curated essential information about natural gas.
There are 923 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves as of 2017. The proven reserves are the equivalent of 52.3 times our annual consumption. In other words, as of 2017, we had 52 years’ worth of gas left.
The five biggest gas extractors are;
- Saudi Arabia
Natural gas reserves can be stand-alone or can be next to oil and coal reserves. Therefore, it is very likely to find natural gas while mining for other fossil fuels. That’s why the top five biggest gas extractors given above also have vast oil and coal reserves.
Natural Gas Formation
When layers of organic material decompose under anaerobic conditions, natural gas occurs. The organic material in question usually comes from pre-historic marine microorganisms. Extreme heat and pressure underground create natural gas.
Contents of Natural Gas
The main component of natural gas is Methane. The amount of methane can vary between 87%-98%. Methane is the main source of energy in natural gas therefore, natural gas with more Methane content has more calorific value.
Other components of gas in descending order are;
- Carbon Dioxide
Properties Of Natural Gas
Natural gas is lighter than air therefore, it dissipates into the air very quickly. When gas goes up, it either flushes the air out of the volume or compresses it down, leaving no oxygen for breathing at head level. This causes suffocation; the cause of injuries, and death when exposed to natural gas. Thus, contrary to common belief, gas is not toxic but since it is lighter than air, it flushes the oxygen out. The best course of action during exposure to gas in an enclosed area is to vacate immediately. If vacating is not an option, laying flat on the ground ensures a steady supply of oxygen.
Gas is quite challenging to detect since its odorless and colorless. That’s why it’s referred to as the silent killer. To make it easier to notice, a non-toxic chemical called Mercaptan is added to the gas to infuse it with a distinctive smell. Distribution centers add Mercaptan into the gas just before they release it into the distribution network.
Another misconception about natural gas is that it’s easily combustible. That’s partially true under ideal circumstances however, the gas-to-air ratio needs to be correct for combustion to occur. The combustion ratio is 4%-15% gas per volume of air, 10% being the optimal mixture. At 10% gas per volume of air, the most efficient burning reaction is achieved. Drowning in an enclosed area with air can even be used as a countermeasure to prevent gas-related incidents.
It is quite challenging to give an exact calorific value for natural gas since the energy output is directly related to the contents of the gas, as mentioned before. However, there are easy coefficients to calculate rough conversions to units of energy quickly. The mentioned coefficients are listed down below.
1 m3 of natural gas is roughly equal to;
Types of Natural Gas
Huge underground distribution networks are not the only way to transfer gas to the users. Natural gas can be liquified and compressed for easier transport or other benefits.
Compressed Natural Gas or CNG for short, is natural gas compressed to its 1% volume at atmospheric pressure. Its commonly used as a fuel for internal combustion engines.
Liquified Natural Gas or LNG is natural gas that is liquified by decreasing the temperatures while increasing the pressure. The liquid phase allows for easier transport and allows users to utilize gas even if there is no infrastructure built in their area.
Even though the focus is on developing renewable energy sources to make them mainstream, fossil fuels are still crucial for supplying our energy needs. Natural gas is an extremely important resource that powers industries around the globe.