Natural Gas



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Basic Facts:


Natural gas is a mixture of gases of which 50-90% is methane (CH4).
Conventional natural gas lies above most reservoirs of crude oil.
Carbon dioxide and water vapor are released when it is burned.
It supplys about 23% of all energy used in the US.
As of 2001 70% of the homes in the U.S. use natural gas for heating.



Pros and Cons


Pros


1. It is clean burning, lacking chemicals and soot.
2. It is easily transported from storage facilities to consumers
3. The cost to produce it is very reasonable.
4. It is safe, causing no harm unless it blows up.
5. Very abundant in the United States.
6. It can be used as fuel for vehicles
7. It is lighter than air, and tends to dissipitate if there is a leak.

Cons


1. Although it is cleaner than coal and oil it still contributes some greenhouse gases into atmosphere.
2. It can leak, causing an explosion.
3. It is a nonrenewable resource and will eventually run out.


Recommendation


My recommendation to President Obama is to spend less of the energy budget on natural gas and more on renewable energy resources. Natural gas is a nonrenewable resource, which pollutes the environment in many ways such as water contamination. Renewable resources such as wind power, harm the environment far less, if any at all, and never run out. For these reasons I believe the renewable resources should receive the greater part of the national energy budget.



What is Natural Gas?

Composition


Natural gas is colorless, odorless, and shapeless in its pure form. It is highly combustible and releases low levels of potentially harmful by-products. Mainly composed of Methane, this mixture of hydrocarbon gases also includes ethane, propane, buthane, and penthane. It is considered dry in its purest form, methane, after all hyrdocarbons have been removed. Companies usually measure it in terms of cubic feet, with 1 cubic foot equalling 1,027 BTU's.

Typical Composition of Natural Gas
Methane
CH4
70-90%
Ethane
C2H6
0-20%
Propane
C3H8
Butane
C4H10
Carbon Dioxide
CO2
0-8%
Oxygen
O2
0-0.2%
Nitrogen
N2
0-5%
Hydrogen sulphide
H2S
0-5%
Rare gases
A, He, Ne, Xe
trace
This table above depicts the various gases found in natural gas when removed from the ground. By the time that it is refined and reaches our homes most of these gases have been removed, and Methane is the only one remaining.

Formation


Natural gas is a fossil fuel that forms from the remains of plants, animals, and microorganisms. fossils fuels such as this form when organic matter is compressed under the earth at a very high pressure for a very long time. Mud and soil from the earth create the pressure from above, while really high temperatures from above tend to create more gas than oil. It can also be formed through the transformation of organic matter by tiny microorganisms.They use chemical reactions to produce biogenic methane, usually near the surface in spots devoid of oxygen. Most of this natural gas is lost into the atmosphere. Finally, waste containing landfills release a large amount of natural gas from the decomposition of waste materials.



Extraction


Once a potential natural gas deposit has been discovered, a team of geologists dig down to where the deposit is. The process of drilling starts when a mixture of water and sand are pumped into the ground, pulverizing layers of rock that hold bubbles of gas. This step is called fracturing, and these cracks release the gas that is captured, and then replace the holes with the sand. It costs a great amount of money for companies to search and drill natural gas deposits. Once a site for a well has been carefully chosen according to the subsurface geology, legal permits then have to be applied for to drill in areas. Drilling is done on and off-shore.

The following video demonstrates the process of drilling natural gas.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPKTuoflR-A



Production



Once Raw natural gas is removed from the ground wells, it goes through manys steps in production. First, condensate and water are removed in the main tank and the raw gas flows into another tank. Next, the gas goes through acid gas removal, sending the acid gas into one tank and the dehydration tank. After the gas is dehydrated, mercury is removed along with nitrogen in the next tank. Finally, the gas is placed in the NGL recovery tank, in which it is expanded and then sent to the sales gas pipeline. All, of the excess gases are also sold. The gas is then transported in pipelines and trucks. It is also transported across oceans in LNG carriers, which are ships that keep the gas in its liquified form and require liquification and regasification plants. Also, when it is turned into compressed natural gas or CNG, it becomes a much safer and eco-friendly alternative to other fuels. Finally, it is usually stored in salt domes or tanks. This chart below shows the different steps in the refining of Natural gas before it reaches our homes. In each box different chemicals are removed, until the desired pure natural gas is attained.


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Schematic flow diagram of a typical natural gas processing plant



Energy


Natural gas produces about 24% of the energy used in the United States. It is potential energy because it contains stored energy, which is released through being burned. Gas is converted into electric energy when burned in power plants. Overall, it is a very efficient source of creating electrical energy, and its use increases yearly.

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This graph above shows the different uses for the natural gas energy in this country.

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The following map above shows the natural gas production by country. The countries in Brown and Red produce the most gas, so the U.S. produces much more than the rest of the world.


Where


Natural gas is found under ground in wells, which also usually contain oil. Natural gas is extracted in 33 states shown in the map below.

The dark blue states on this map show you where large amounts of natural gas are extracted. In the medium blue states, moderate amounts of natural gas are extracted. And in the light blue states, just a little natural gas is extracted. Natural gas is not extracted at all in the states that are white.
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Natural gas is also found in about 50 countries, of which the ones that contain the highest percentages found in the world are listed below. Russia and the United States contain the most natural gas by far, while Mexico and Africa contain the least. The largest natural gas field is the Pars field found between Iran and Qatar.

United States
22.5 %
Canada
7.0 %
Mexico
1.4 %
Central and South America
4.0 %
Europe
11.9 %
Former Soviet Union
27.5 %
Middle East
9.3 %
Africa
5.0 %
Asian and Pacific Countries
11.4 %
(Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2002 http://www.bp.com/)
This table explains the percent of natural gas that each country contains in the world. The US and Russia have about 50% of it.


Environmental and Health Effects

Environmental Effect


Natural gas is often classified as cleaner than coal, but this is not necessarily the case. When drilled, during the process of Hydraulic fracturing, the chemicals left behind contaminate the ground water below, which flows through these new cracks in the ground. From there, chemicals such as benzene, arsenic, high levels of salt, and other radioactive materials contaminate water supplies down stream. On the other hand, Natural gas is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels. It consists of almost all methane, and releases much less amounts of carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur and nitrogen compared to coal and oil. This fossil fuel also causes almost no sludge because of its minimal release of sulfur.

Fossil Fuel Emission Levels
- Pounds per Billion Btu of Energy Input

Pollutant
Natural Gas
Oil
Coal
Carbon Dioxide
117,000
164,000
208,000
Carbon Monoxide
40
33
208
Nitrogen Oxides
92
448
457
Sulfur Dioxide
1
1,122
2,591
Particulates
7
84
2,744
Mercury
0.000
0.007
0.016
This table above shows the pullutants, which natural gas, oil, and coal release. As you can see Natural gas releases by far and away the least amount of pollutants among them.

Health Effects


There are little health effects from natural gas. First, It can weaken your immune system if you are exposed to small amounts for a prolonged period of time. Second, large amounts of it can cause explosions. Finally, some reports indicate that exposure to it can also increase risk of asthma and other lung related dieseases, but it has been yet to be proven.



Cost of Natural Gas


From 1999-2008 the average gas price around the country nearly doubled, going from $6.69 per thousand cubic feet to $13.68. Below are the costs of each part of the natural gas process over the years.


Show Data By:

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Data Series
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Area
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external image spacer_transp.gif ||~ 2003 ||~ 2004 ||~ 2005 ||~ 2006 ||~ 2007 ||~ 2008 ||~ View
History ||


Wellhead Price

4.88
5.46
7.33
6.39
6.37
8.07
1922-2008


Imports Price

5.17
5.81
8.12
6.88
6.87
8.70
1985-2008


By Pipeline

5.23
5.80
8.09
6.83
6.83
8.57
1985-2008


As Liquefied Natural Gas

4.79
5.82
8.26
7.19
7.07
10.03
1985-2008


Exports Price

5.54
6.09
7.59
6.83
6.92
8.60
1985-2008


By Pipeline

5.66
6.18
7.77
6.90
6.96
8.65
1985-2008


As Liquefied Natural Gas

4.47
4.96
5.79
6.02
6.23
7.73
1985-2008


Pipeline and Distribution Use Price

--
--
--



1967-2005


City Gate Price

5.85
6.65
8.67
8.61
8.12
9.18
1973-2008


Residential Price

9.63
10.75
12.70
13.73
13.06
13.68
1967-2008


Percentage of Total Residential Deliveries

97.47
97.74
98.19
98.09
98.04

1989-2007


Commercial Price

8.4
9.43
11.34
12.0
11.32
11.99
1967-2008


Percentage of Total Commercial Deliveries

78.2
78.0
82.1
80.8
80.5
75.1
1987-2008


Industrial Price

5.89
6.53
8.56
7.87
7.68
9.58
1997-2008


Percentage of Total Industrial Deliveries

22.1
23.7
24.1
23.4
22.3
20.2
1997-2008


Vehicle Fuel Price

6.19
7.16
9.14
8.72
8.45

1989-2007


Electric Power Price

5.57
6.11
8.47
7.11
7.31
9.35
1997-2008
The cost of Natural gas has increased in every area over the last couple of years, as shown above. It remains more costly than coal.

Current Events


Natural gas has become the new and exciting form of energy in the last couple of years, and has been highly sought after. T.Boone Pickens, and other companies have invaded the fort worth area, which has been found with large amounts of this energy resource. They are calling it the next great transportation fuel.

Next, Exxon Mobil has discovered a new way to extract natural gas out of the earth without the use of fracturing, which is suspected to contaminate water sources. They have found a way to extract the gas from shale rock, and are convincing lawmakers to pass a 40 billion dollar deal right now. Listed below are links to other current events involving Natural gas during this time.

1. http://www.thecypresstimes.com/article/Columnists/A_Time_For_Choosing/SARAH_PALINS_NATURAL_GAS_PIPELINE_A_DREAM_MOVING_FORWARD_AS_TRANSCANADA_ANNOUNCES_OPEN_SEASON/27372
2. http://www.philly.com/philly/business/83184652.html
3. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60L3S920100122
4. http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/01/14/14greenwire-natural-gas-industry-pressing-senate-for-clima-83393.html



Air Pollution


The use of Natural gas does not contribute significantly to smog because it emits low levels of nitrogen oxide and no particulate matter. Coal and soe other non-renewabe natural resources are the main cause of fog formation and harmful air pollution. Overall, Natural gas is a clean resource, which doesn't pollute the air very much at all compared to other resources.



TOXICOLOGAL and EPIDEMIOLOGICAL EFFECTS


Methane is the only established toxin related to the production of Natural Gas. It is al harmful chemical toxins, which targets the lungs and blood stream of humans. Benzene is the only carcinogen released, and is linked to luekimea in humans. Benzene is released in drilling, and seeps into the ground, potentially polluting groundwater.



Solid and Hazardous Waste


Hydrocarbons are the only major solid hazardous wastes produced from natural gas. They are released as wastes in fairly small amounts, and can be reused, but are usually buried. Before burial they are treated through bioredemiation and thermal technologys, before being placed in the land fills.



National Policies


October 2002—EPA issues the publication, Exemption of Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Wastes from Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations (PDF) (40 pp, 913K) | en Español (PDF) (40 pp, 424K). This document provides an understanding of the exemption of certain oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) wastes from regulation as hazardous wastes under RCRA Subtitle C.




Bibliography


1. Unknown. "Natural Gas." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc, 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2010.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas>.

2. Lustgarten, Abrahm, ed. "Natural Gas Drilling: What We Don't Know." ProPublica. ProPublica, 31 Dec.
2009. Web. 22 Jan. 2010. <http://www.propublica.org/feature/
natural-gas-drilling-what-we-dont-know-1231>.

3. Unknown. "Natural Gas Extraction." NaturalGas.org. N.p., 1 Jan. 2004. Web. 22 Jan. 2010.
<http://www.naturalgas.org/naturalgas/extraction.asp>.

4. Unknown. "Natural Gas." EIA . US Energy Information Administration, 8 Jan. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2010.
<http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=natural_gas_home-basics>.

5. Unknown. "Natural Gas Health and Environmental Hazards." Energy Justice Network. N.p., 9 Sept. 2009.
Web. 22 Jan. 2010. <http://www.energyjustice.net/naturalgas/>.