Where Does Natural Gas Come From?

natural gas pipesNatural gas is something that has been around for millions of years. It is underneath the core of the earth and before it was understood, it created a intense mystery in civilisation.

How Does it Work

Natural gas is hydrocarbon gas mixture. It consists of methane but also has some amounts of higher alkanes and a small percentage of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, or helium can also be found.

Decomposing plant and animal matter gets exposed to intense heat and pressure from rocks under the surface of the earth. It is a procedure that takes over millions of years. The energy that the plants stored originally, which it obtained from the sun, is stored in the form of chemical bonds in the gas. All this pressure, heat and millions of years turned the natural material into coal, petroleum and natural gas.

The non renewable resource (fossil fuel) is used as a energy source. Mainly for heating, cooking and the generation of electricity. It is also used in the manufacturing for plastics and is used in other important products such as paints, fertilisers, medicines, and antifreeze. Natural gas is also used for fuel for vehicles.

Because it produces fewer undesirable bi-products per unit than coal or petroleum, it is described as ‘clean burning’. All fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide, but natural gas emits about half the rate of coal per kilowatt hour of electricity generated which makes it more energy efficient.

The stats show that in 2013, a coal burning power plant was about 33% efficient in converting heat energy into electricity whilst a gas-fired plant was 42% efficient. In natural gas combined-cycle power plants, generation may be at 60% efficient.

History

It has been around for millions of years and before it was understood, it had a mysterious element to it. When lighting struck, it would clash with the gas that seeped from below the earth’s surface which resulted in fires and great mystery.

The Chinese civilisation was the first to create a system to transport the gas in 500BC. They created crude pipelines made from bamboo shoots. The natural gas was used to boil sea water to separate the salt so that it was possible to consume as drinking water.

In 1626 French explorers found natural gas in America after they noticed that the Native Americans ignited gases that seeped from Lake Erie. In 1785, more than 100 years later, it was commercialised in Britain, using it to fuel streetlights and lighthouses.

In 1821, William Hart lead a mission to obtain natural gas in New York. He started the first American natural gas company (Fredonia Gas Light Company) and is hailed a pioneer and referred to as ‘The Father of Natural Gas’.

After World War ll the industry boomed. Thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines were constructed in the 1960’s in America. From there the industry grew tremendously.

Natural Gas Sources

In the US, most natural gas is retrieved through a ‘horse head’ pump. It moves up and down and lifts a rod in and out of a well bore. This brings the gas to the surface.

Fracking is a other technique where tiny cracks are created in the rocks. It opens a path for the gas to come to the surface.

The other method is the least common of them all. It uses natural pressure of the underground reservoir and forces the gas through the rocks. A series of pipes and valves on the surface then control the flow of the gas.

Countries where you will find the most natural gas are:

Russia

Iran

Qatar

Turkmenistan

United States of America

Saudi Arabia

Iraq

Storage and Transportation

Natural gas has a very low density which makes it difficult to store and transport. Natural gas pipelines are impractical across oceans because the fraction in the pipelines generate heat and natural gas need to stay cooled. Because of the trade costs, natural gas markets are much less integrated globally which causes massive price differences across different countries. The gas pipeline network is already very dense in Western Europe and new networks are in planning or already underway in Eastern Europe and also between Russia, Northern Africa and Near East.

Safety Concerns

Like in any industry there are safety risks that include the production procedure, fracking, difficulties with odour detection, risks of explosion and risk of carbon monoxide inhalation. But there are incredibly strict laws to protect the wellbeing and safety of people as well as the planet. Every year governments and environmentalist work on better ideas to enhance the procedures and safety of this ‘clean burning’ energy source.