Sustainable Natural Gas as a Riveting Alternative Fuel: 4 Minutes Reading of Natural Gas Facts

Sustainable Natural Gas as a Riveting Alternative Fuel: 4 Minutes Reading of Natural Gas Facts

Natural gas or biofuel is one of the underrated fuel to be used out there, it is a decent and sustainable fuel honestly. It is just as functional as the other non-renewable resources like coal and gasoline, but easier to harvest, sustainable, and dare we say, eco-friendly. We all knew where coal and gasoline came from, we all learned it at school, it came from the fossils of living creatures that we dig deep underground. It’s hard to harvest, unsustainable, and harmful to the invironment. With this article, we want to introduce you to the amazing natural gas.

Natural Gas and How We Harvest Them

Natural gas is one of the non-renewable energy that human harvest and utilize to help sustain their lives. Non-renewable energy means that the energy came from sources that will run out eventually and cannot be fully replenished back, and even if it is, it will take a very long time which will outrun the resource sustainability. These non-renewable energy came from decomposing organic living creature deep underground, buried for over the past 550 million years, and that is where the gas is cooked.

Organic matters is buried in mud, silt, and sand over time sealed in an oxygen-free prison and exposed to increasing amounts of heat and pressure. This is when the energy starts cooking, the organic matter underwent a thermal breakdown process that converted it into hydrocarbons, organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. When it’s ready to be harvested, we call this hydrocarbon as methane (CH4), simplest and lightest highly flammable hydrocarbon. Once it’s fully cooked, it’s all depends on the surrounding rocks.

A natural gas power plant, built to harvest, process, and transport the gas

Photo is taken by: POWER Magazine
A natural gas power plant, built to harvest, process, and transport the gas
Photo is taken by: POWER Magazine

Things to consider to harvest the methane is the porosity and permeability of the surrounding rock. Porosity refers to the percentage of an empty space inside of a rock, if a rock has 5%-25% of porosity, it can store fluids such as oil, water, and gas in a large amount. Permeability refers to the measure and capability of a substance to pass trough the rock, as the empty spaces inside of a rock are interconnected. Rocks with high permeability will help the natural gas to flow easily through the rock.

How Human Utilize Natural Gas

Natural gas is a multipurpose and efficient fuel that is used  by people in a wide variety of applications. Natural gas has a wide variety of uses in households, businesses, factories, and power plants. Mostly, we use this resource to generate electric power and heat to be utilized by people. Natural gas power plants usually generate electricity in gas turbines, basically it will turn natural gas combustions into electricity using the turbines (with the efficiencies of 35 to 45 percent). Natural gas power plant is the cheapest to construct, but most expensive to operate.

Generator that convert natural gas into a different resources, like heat and electricity

Photo is taken by: Generac Power System
Generator that convert natural gas into a different resources, like heat and electricity
Photo is taken by: Generac Power System

Natural gas power plants has a greater operational flexibility, it means we can fire up and turn down the power plants rapidly. That’s why natural gas power plants mostly used to provide peaking electric capacity, at times where electricity demand was especially high, summer for instance when air conditioning is widely used. A study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2011 revealed that natural gas power plants could reduce the electric sector’s carbon emissions by 22% (if it can outpace coal-fired power plant use).

For residential and commercial use, biogas helped people by providing heat, for cooking or a simple water heating. About half of all US homes used this gas for heating in 2013. This resource is also useful in factories, either to power up machines, or simply as a raw material for production, fertilizer for instance, where the gas is necessary for production. If you are wondering if we can use the gas for transportation fuel, yes we can, with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The fuel was made by applying pressure to the gas.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refueling station

Photo is taken from: Oilman Magazine
CNG refueling station
Photo is taken from: Oilman Magazine

Speaking of alternative resource for residential use, you might interested in: Huge Potential of Hydropower Energy Found in Indonesia, But Why Are We Not Shifting?

CNG is made by applying high pressure and room temperature to the gas to less than 1% of the volume it occupies, so we can use it as a transportation fuel, mostly in public transit. The great thing is, compared to gasoline, CNG vehicles emit far less carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. The downside however, is that CNG has low energy density compared with liquid fuels, it means only vehicles with big, bulky fuel tanks can use CNG properly, like buses and trucks. Alternatively, we can use natural gas to generate electricity for plug-in vehicles.

Source: How Natural Gas Is Formed, By Union of Concerned Scientist, June 19th 2019

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