What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is a type of fossil fuel which can be used as a source for cooking, heating, and generating electricity. This non-renewable fuel can also be used to fuel vehicles. Natural gas is formed when the decomposed plants and animals are exposed to extreme heat and pressure when they are under the earth’s surface for many years(about million years).
Natural gas does not have any color or odor and contains high level of methane and few other hydrocarbons. It is easily flammable, which makes it one of the most used energy source across the world.
Features of Natural Gas
For decades, ecologists and environment lovers have described the features of natural gas. Some of the prominent features of natural gas are:
- Natural gas can be easily found and is abundant as it is available from nature.
- Natural gas is highly flammable due to high level of methane.
- Natural gas is colourless, tasteless, and odourless.
- The density of natural gas is lower than the density of the air which makes it lighter than air. So, in case of leakage, it can easily dissipate into the air.
- Natural gas is less corrosive due to high methane and low carbon composition.
Sources of Natural Gas
Natural gas is extracted from the surface of the earth. It is formed from the decomposed plants and animals under the ground. When extracting natural gas, experts look for a certain type of rock formation on the ground as natural gas is abundantly available in these places. Experts use sound waves detection tools and gravitational pulls to detect the place where natural gas is available bountiful.
Once the spot is detected, experts dig wells around the ground for about 6,000 feet deep and use pipelines to extract the gas. The extracted gas are then sent to power plants where it is processed and made ready to use.
Advantages of Natural Gas
- Natural Gas is Environmentally Clean: Among many burning fossil fuels available on planet earth, natural gas is the most cleanest. It is considered clean because unlike other gases, natural gas emits very less byproducts into the atmosphere as pollutants. This keeps the air we breathe cleaner.
- It is Economical: Natural gas is not as expensive as other burning fuels.
- It is Convenient: If people use natural gas for cooking or electric purposes, it can be directed connected to the consumer’s house with the help of pipelines. This eliminates the long process of collecting, processing, packing, and delivering the end product to the customers.
- Natural Gas is Safe to Use: One of the biggest fear we have when using LPG cylinders or any other type of fuel is the possibility of leakage. Gases have the power to burn things and people around and can be very dangerous. However, natural gas is lighter than air. In case of a leakage, it dissipates quickly into the air avoiding fire. Isn’t that super safe?
- It is Available Abundantly: Currently, experts state that amount of natural gas available is more than crude oil or other such products.
- It is More Efficient: When compared to things like propane gas, natural gas provides more energy when it burns, which makes it much more efficient.
- Natural Gas is Easy to Deliver: If we look at the current mode of delivery of gas to homes in India, we notice a lot of metal cylinders changing hands. Should natural gas take over as the preferred fuel for cooking, its delivery would be much easier since all that is needed to deliver natural gas is a network of pipes.
Disadvantages of Natural Gas
- Limited Quantities: The problem in India is that we don’t have vast reserves of natural gas which means that most of the natural gas that is consumed by us has to be bought from other countries. Such constant purchases can turn into a rather expensive proposition over time.
- Natural Gas is Highly Combustible: Though natural gas is lighter than air, one cannot deny the fact that is it highly combustible. As natural gas is odourless, it is difficult to detect a leakage as well.
- Natural Gas is a Non-Renewable Source of Energy: Keeping aside the positives of using natural gas, one should not forget that it is a non-renewable source of energy. Experts state that natural gas will be depleted in the future and we will have to import it from other nations.
- Natural Gas Emits Carbon Dioxide: One of the biggest disadvantage of natural gas is that it emits carbon dioxide which is bad for our atmosphere. Constant introduction of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere will lead to climate change and also global warming.
- Long Processing Process: As natural gas has other components that has to be removed before using it for residential or commercial purposes, it takes a lot of time and manpower to process it.
- Leakage: Even though it is lighter than air and can disperse easily, a big danger with natural gas is that since it is colorless, odorless and tasteless, should it start leaking, detection of the leak is very hard. Advantages of Natural Gas.
- Storage: Even though natural gas is easier to store and transport, it has one big disadvantage. Its volume happens to be four times that of petrol which makes it more expensive to store since more needs to be spent on additional storage.
Yes, natural gas has both advantages and disadvantages. Despite all the disadvantages, natural gas is one of the cheapest and easily available fossil fuel in this world. All said and done, it can be considered that natural gas can serve as a viable alternative to other fossil fuels till such time as something more efficient can be found.