Natural gas is a composition of gases that contain high percentages of hydrocarbons, and the most primary compound is methane (one carbon and four hydrogen atoms). Other than methane, natural gas also contains carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc. Natural gas is found deep in the earth’s crust close to the beds of non-hydrocarbon gases and hydrocarbon gas liquids.
Natural gas is used as a fuel for cooking and to keep the houses warm or cold. However, the pure form of natural gas contains a lot of contaminants. Hence, it cannot be used in its raw state. It goes to an extensive processing method and is converted into usable fuel for the domestic and commercial purpose.
Different by-products of natural gas such as propane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, ethane, butane are extracted during the process, and they are used for other things.
Formation of Natural Gas
Natural gas formed millions of years ago when the dead remains of plants and animals turned into fossils. They decayed and converted into thick layers mixed with silt and sand. These layers remained buried underneath the rock, silt, and sand for millions of years. Over these years, the continuous heat and pressure changed the organic material into natural gas, coal, and oil.
Natural gas may be found in the large cracks within the rocky formations or in the spaces between rocks lying one over the other. They may also be present in the tiny pores within the formations of sandstone, shale and other types of sedimentary rock. It is often referred to as tight gas or shale gas. Another source of natural gas is coal deposit which is known as coal-bed methane.
How is natural gas found?
The search for sites that have natural gas buried within the earth’s surface is a part of geology. The geologists are experts in understanding the geographical structure and processes. They can identify the types of rocks and formations that may have natural gas trapped inside. While some of these sites are on land, other sires are offshore or within the ocean beds.
Different methods are tools used to dig and discover the sources of natural gas. The experts use seismic surveys which include echoes emancipating from a vibration source (typically a vibrating pad placed beneath a special kind of truck) to identify the exact location to drill to get natural gas. The geologists may also use small explosives as a source of vibration source.
On water, the seismic surveys are dependent on the blasts of sound which generate sonic waves used to explore the geology present under the ocean floor.
How Does It Work?
When the geologist identifies a site as a good source of natural gas, an exploratory well is drilled in that region for testing. When it is established that the site is economic for natural gas production, more wells are drilled.
In the US and several other countries, natural gas is directly produced from shale and other types of rocky formations that contain natural gas within its pores. These formations are broken down by forcing chemicals and water down the well. This results in the formations releasing natural gas from rocks in an abundant amount. These gaseous formations slowly come through the well to the land surface. The wells that are drilled to produce natural gas may also extract other by-products associated with natural gas.
What are the Different Uses of Natural Gas?
The natural gas thus extracted from beneath the earth’s surface goes through the process of filtration to remove the solid and liquid contaminants that include iron oxide, water vapor, well treatment chemicals, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. These contaminants may damage the processing equipment, rust the distribution equipment and result in an adulterated final product.
Thus the raw form of natural gas goes through different stages of filtration to produce natural gas that is used in different domestic and commercial applications. In the residential sector, it is used to generate electricity to light up houses, keep warm/ cool and cook food.
In the industrial sector, natural gas is used for process heating and combining the heat and power systems to produce fertilizer, chemicals, and hydrogen. Some amount of natural gas is also used as fuel in the vehicles for transportation.