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NATURAL GAS: Importance and Uses

By Jim-Rex Lawson MOSES

Natural gas is a fossil fuel made primarily of methane, hydrogen and carbon. However, it was not until recently that methods for obtaining this gas, bringing it to the surface, and putting it to use were developed.

In Nigeria, Gas utilization is a primary goal of Nigeria’s petroleum and energy policies. This is because, with a proven reserve of 260 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, Nigeria’s gas reserve is triple the nation’s crude oil resources. Hitherto, associated gas encountered during the normal course of oil production has been largely flared.

Nigeria is reputed to be the largest gas-flaring country in the world. By not fully harnessing its gas resources, Nigeria loses an estimated 18.2 million U.S. dollars daily.

Nigeria is the second largest producer of liquefied petroleum gas in Africa, and the sixth largest producer in the world with over 3million metric tones annually. However, current per capita consumption of the gas in Nigeria is about 0.8kg/annum.

This is the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa; lower than those of Nigeria’s West Africa neighbours who do not produce the product. Annual LPG consumption is in Nigeria for 2010, was put at 120,000MT, whereas, in Lagos alone, there is a potential market for 1,000,000MT annually.

Properties

Natural gas is lighter than air, colorless, odorless and tasteless. For this reason, odorant is added to the gas to make it noticeable and objectionable for safety reasons. Natural gas can be compressed and, therefore, transmitted in large quantities through relatively small pipe diameters when under high pressure.

Natural gas is primarily composed of methane, although also present are other chemicals such as propane, butane, isobutane, pentane and heptane.

An environmentally friendly and efficient energy source, natural gas is the cleanest-burning conventional fuel, producing lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than heavier hydrocarbon fuels such as coal and oil.

Important Facts About Natural Gas:

?Flammability range 5% to 15%

?No color, odor or taste

?Mercaptan is added for odor

?Nontoxic

?Burns with a blue flame

?Liquefies at – 200 °F

?Heating Value 800 to 1200 BTU’s per cubic foot

Uses

An environmentally friendly and efficient energy source, natural gas is the cleanest-burning conventional fuel, producing lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than heavier hydrocarbon fuels such as coal and oil. Natural gas fuels electric power generators, heats buildings and is used as a raw material in many consumer products, such as those made of traditional plastics.

The International Energy Agency predicts that the demand for natural gas will grow by approximately 44 percent through 2035.

Domestic use

Natural gas dispensed from a simple stovetop can generate heat in excess of 2000°F (1093°C) making it a powerful domestic cooking and heating fuel. In much of the developed world it is supplied to homes via pipes where it is used for many purposes including natural gas-powered ranges and ovens, natural gas-heated clothes dryers, heating/cooling and central heating. Home or other building heating may include boilers, furnaces, and water heaters. Compressed natural gas (CNG) is used in rural homes without connections to piped-in public utility services, or with portable grills.

Power generation

Natural gas is a major source of electricity generation through the use of gas turbines and steam turbines. Most grid peaking power plants and some off-grid engine-generators use natural gas. Natural gas burns more cleanly than other Hydrocarbon fuels, such as oil and coal, and produces less carbon dioxide per unit of energy released.

Hydrogen

Natural gas can be used to produce hydrogen, with one common method being the hydrogen reformer. Hydrogen has many applications: it is a primary feedstock for the chemical industry, a hydrogenating agent, an important commodity for oil refineries, and the fuel source in hydrogen vehicles.

Transportation

Compressed natural gas is a cleaner alternative to other automobile fuels such as petrol and diesel. As of 2008 there were 9.6 million natural gas vehicles worldwide, led by Pakistan (2.0 million), Argentina (1.7 million), Brazil (1.6 million), Iran (1.0 million), and India (650,000).

Aviation

Russian aircraft manufacturer Tupolev is currently running a development program to produce LNG- and hydrogen -powered aircraft. It claims that at current market prices, an LNG-powered aircraft would cost 5,000 roubles (~ $218/ £112) less to operate per ton, roughly equivalent to 60%, with considerable reductions to carbon monoxide , hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions

Fertilizers

Natural gas is a major feedstock for the production of ammonia , via the Haber process , for use in fertilizer production.

Other Natural gas is also used in the manufacture of fabrics , glass , steel , plastics , paint , and other products.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.