Natural gas is a clean-burning fossil fuel that has a wide variety of applications. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the gas was used mainly for street and building lighting, which was termed gaslight. But the improved distribution and processing of the gas have made it possible to be used in homes, businesses, factories etc. Surprisingly, the history of natural gas goes back thousands of years.
It isn’t a perfect fuel source though of course. Here are the pros and cons of natural gas.
Advantages of Natural Gas
When it comes to the most environmentally friendly fossil fuel, natural gas is at the top of the chart. The clean-burning characteristics of natural gas have made it a frequent choice as a nonpolluting transportation fuel. Many buses and commercial automotive fleets now operate on compressed natural gas.
There have been several advancements in technology which has reduced the level of nitrogen oxide emitted by natural gas. When natural gas burns perfectly, it does not leave unsightly ash, soot or bad odors.
Natural Gas was used mainly for street and household lighting in the 19th and 20th century. Now, it has a lot more uses in the homes and industrial applications. Natural gas is utilized to address nearly every energy or fuel need we have today.
The largest single application for natural gas is as a fuel for electric power generation. Power generation is followed by industrial, domestic, and commercial uses—mainly as a source of energy but also, for instance, as a feedstock for chemical products. It is an important ingredient in dyes and inks and is used in rubber compounding operations. It is also used to turn turbines for wind and solar energy generation.
This fossil fuel is used for the production of ammonia which itself is used for making fertilizers. It is a domestic fuel as well. It fires stoves in our houses and also runs heaters, ovens, boilers, etc. Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG is used to power vehicles such as off-road trucks and trains. A wide array of other chemical products can be made from natural gas by a controlled oxidation process—for example, methanol, propanol, and formaldehyde, which serve as basic materials for a wide range of other chemical products.
Compared to other fossil fuels, natural gas is a lot easier to store, thereby making it one of the most efficient sources of energy for power generation and heating. There are numerous modes of storage when it comes to natural gas. It can be stored in tanks either above ground or underground.
Natural gas is a reliable source of energy as its delivery won’t be impacted by severe weather or most other unforeseen circumstance. This is because it occurs underneath the earth surface.
This is one of the most notable advantages of natural gas. Natural gas is less costly compared to many other fossil fuels, and aside from that, the price is almost always constant. The laws of demand and supply hardly affect the price and technological advances have made the gas even cheaper.
Studies have revealed that there is still more than 100 years worth of natural gas in the US alone. This gives confidence that there is plenty of it available.
Disadvantages of Natural Gas
Gas line leaks in commercial and residential settings don’t happen too often, but when they do, they pose a significant threat. When a large amount of gas collects in an enclosed area, it may lead to an explosion. Additionally, individuals exposed to the buildup may become ill. Before distributing it to consumers, natural gas suppliers add a scent to the odorless gas. Regular inspections and proper gas line installation help prevent gas leaks from occurring.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Malfunctioning natural gas furnaces may emit poisonous carbon monoxide gas. When individuals inhale carbon monoxide it deprives them of necessary oxygen. Sustained exposure to carbon monoxide will incapacitate, and eventually kill, an individual.
Have a licensed repair technician inspect your natural gas-burning heaters and appliances every year to ensure the gas is burning properly. Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, and check often to make sure they are functioning properly.
Avoid heating your house with a gas oven or your bedroom with a gas or kerosene space heater. These preventative measures will reduce your risk of carbon monoxide exposure from natural gas heaters and appliances.
While natural gas doesn’t emit the same amount of greenhouse gases as other fossil fuels, it does release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. An excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere further expedites the rate at which the planet grows warmer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to its negative effect on the atmosphere, natural gas production, storage and shipping can pose a threat to the environment. Small amounts of methane, another greenhouse gas, may escape during these processes.
In recent years, studies have shown that the process gas companies use to drill may contaminate nearby water sources. The process, known as hydraulic fracturing, injects highly pressurized sand and drilling fluid into the ground.
As with any fossil fuel, there are risks and trade-offs with extracting, shipping, processing and burning natural gas. However, seeing how far behind the renewable energy industry and technology actually is, natural gas is an excellent alternative to petroleum and coal as we move further into the 21st century.
Natural gas is comparatively clean and safe. It has innumerable uses and can be shipped and stored much easier than coal or petroleum. The popularity of natural gas around the world will only increase with demand.