Natural Gas and the Future of Energy

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Patrick Meehan

Jeb Waldschmidt

ENGL 102-05


Natural Gas and the Future of Energy

Until recently natural gas was considered the dirty brother of oil. Natural gas was

often stranded and left undeveloped, often wasting it. Oftentimes natural gas was

considered ‘unusable' and ‘worthless' compared to oil. But now that the oil is running

out a new light is being shown on natural gas. Today natural gas is very much in favor as

a clean fossil fuel, especially for electricity generation in industrialized countries. "Global

proven gas reserves are 5501 TcM with around 60 years of production at current

utilization rates compared to 40 years for oil," writes Pradeep Kurup. According to the

latest numbers people could be using more gas than oil by 2030. According to Kurup,

"that means an even greater incremental growth in both gas supply and transportation

than the industry has seen up to date, with nearly 25% of all natural gas produced now

crossing an international border."

Natural gas is created from the anaerobic decay of organic material. You can find it in oil fields and natural gas fields and in most swampy or marshy areas. Natural gas is also generated by animals during digestion. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane which happens to be the lightest of the hydrocarbon molecules. The other components of natural gas consist of heavier hydrocarbon molecules such as ethane, butane, and propane. Hydrogen sulfide and mercury are common contaminants, which must be removed prior to most uses. Natural gas is emerging as the most important energy source for the future because it has an abundance of uses and is found almost anywhere. The abundant supply of natural gas makes it a fine candidate to replace oil as the dominating source of energy. A lot of people who freaked out when word about peak oil surfaced now can find comfort in natural gas. Most people probably don't realize that natural gas can not only be used as a replacement for gasoline but it can also be used to generate electricity through the use of both gas and steam turbines. A special "combined cycle mode" has been developed by combining both the gas and the steam turbines. On top of all of the facts I have already posted, natural gas also burns cleaner and thus more efficiently than other fossil fuels creating less greenhouse gases.

Some people may argue that the process of converting natural gas into useful electricity is too pricey. Well, for now that is a fact. But fuel cell technology may one day provide cleaner and more reasonable options for converting natural gas into electricity. Great strides have been made in the development of natural gas. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) along with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is used as a clean alternative to other automobile fuels. India is one of the countries with the largest number of vehicles running on natural gas. Different American companies have been working on cars that run totally on natural gas. These cars are called hybrids. One of the companies that is having the most success is Chrysler.

Natural gas is also used for domestic use in homes for stoves, grills, and even heating. Propane, although very dangerous, has been used for heating and cooking for a number of years. High-risk elements remain in pursuing successful strategies in the global gas industry. Oil companies today are dealing with high gas prices in the USA and rising prices in Europe. Countries are now less reliant on long term gas contracts and are relying on spot and supply sales, mostly via pipeline. Demand for gas is increasing as well as concern over the security supply. In the case of countries like the USA and European countries and India, where indigenous supply cannot keep up with demand, gas being sourced from greater and greater distances, bringing together a mix of political, economic and technical risk. Natural gas is the future....
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