The main ingredient in natural gas is methane. Methane is a gas (or compound) composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.
Millions of years ago, the remains of plants and animals (diatoms) decayed and built up in thick layers. This decayed matter from plants and animals is called organic material — it was once alive. Over time, the sand and silt changed to rock, covered the organic material, and trapped it beneath the rock. Pressure and heat changed some of this organic material into coal, some into oil (petroleum), and some into natural gas — tiny bubbles of odorless gas.
getting the oil
The search for natural gas begins with geologists (people who study the structure of the earth) locating the types of rock that are usually found near gas and oil deposits.
Today their tools include modern seismic surveys that are used to find the right places to drill wells. Seismic surveys use echoes from a vibration source at the earth’s surface (usually a vibrating pad under a truck built for this purpose) to collect information about the rocks beneath. Sometimes it is necessary to use small amounts of dynamite to provide the vibration that is needed.
Scientists and engineers explore a chosen area by studying rock samples from the earth and taking measurements. If the site seems promising, drilling begins. Some of these areas are on land but many are offshore, deep in the ocean. Once the gas is found, it flows up through the well to the surface of the ground and into large pipelines. Some of the gases that are produced along with methane, such as butane and propane (also known as ‘by-products’), are separated and cleaned at a gas procber of ways. For example, propane can be used for cooking essing plant.
The by-products, once removed, are used in a numon gas grills.
Because natural gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless, mercaptan (a chemical that has a sulfur like odor) is added before distribution, to give it a distinct unpleasant odor (smells like rotten eggs). This serves as a safety device by allowing it to be detected in the atmosphere, in cases where leaks occur.
We can also use machines called “digesters” that turn today’s organic material (plants, animal wastes, etc.) into natural gas. This replaces waiting for thousands of years for the gas to form naturally.
storage and supply
The gas companies collect it in huge storage tanks, or underground, in old gas wells. The gas remains there until it is added back into the pipeline when people begin to use more gas, such as in the winter to heat homes.
Natural gas is moved by pipelines from the producing fields to consumers. Since natural gas demand is greater in the winter, gas is stored along the way in large underground storage systems, such as old oil and gas wells or caverns formed in old salt beds. The gas remains there until it is added back into the pipeline when people begin to use more gas, such as in the winter to heat homes.
Natural gas – environmental effects
Natural gas burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels. It has fewer emissions of sulfur, carbon, and nitrogen than coal or oil, and it has almost no ash particles left after burning.
As with other fossil fuels, burning natural gas produces carbon dioxide, which is the most important greenhouse gas. Many scientists believe that increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere are changeing the global climate.