Uses of natural gas
- Natural gas can be used as a fuel in power stations to produce electricity.
- As a clean and safe natural gas, it is also used in homes and businesses right now to fuel equipment, and provide heat for comfort and for hot water.
- Natural gas has a wide range of applications and can be used to power any number of processes in residential and commercial properties and on an industrial scale. In addition to the numerous existing applications, new uses for natural gas are regularly being discovered.
- As well as creating energy, natural gas provides the base ingredients for a broad spectrum of products including plastics, fertiliser and fabrics.
Natural gas is approximately half the cost of cooking with electricity. It is quick to heat and the temperature is easy to change, as well as being self-igniting and self-cleaning.
- Heating and cooling
Temperature regulation is one of the most popular applications of natural gas. It is an energy efficient and convenient approach to both heating and cooling, and like cooking it is easy to control the temperature. Natural gas air-conditioners require less maintenance and have lower ongoing costs than other cooling methods.
A number of appliances including; barbecues, outdoor lights, bar heaters, tumble dryers, pool heaters and fireplaces can be powered safely and well by natural gas. The same pipes that supply gas for temperature regulation and cooking can be used making these simple to install.
The commercial applications of natural gas are similar to the residential uses. As natural gas is extremely efficient and economical it is widely used in this sector for heating and cooling. As it is piped in it does not need to be stored, simplifying energy logistics, it also produces far less emissions than other forms of energy. Additional benefits to the commercial space include;
- Water heating
Natural gas boilers can produce high volumes of hot water quickly and can be controlled automatically.
- Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
This refers to the simultaneous production of heat and electricity. This is an efficient process that utilises the heat produced in generating energy to fuel other processes. It is a very useful system in large commercial enterprises that require constant volumes of both heat and power.
As well as heating, cooling and cooking, natural gas has a number of uses of specific to industrial environments.
- Co-firing – the process in which natural gas is used in addition to other fuels which may be less efficient or release more emissions, such as coal, wood and biomass energy
- Waste treatment and incineration
- Powers Infrared Heating Units which is an economic method to generate heat in an industrial setting, particularly in in the metals industry
- Drying and dehumidification through natural gas desiccant systems
- Glass melting
- Other gases including propane and ethane can extracted from natural gas and used to make fertilizers and pharmaceutical products.
- When converted to synthesis gas, may be used to produce methanol which in turn is used to produce such substances as formaldehyde, acetic acid, and MTBE
- Direct Contact Water Heaters
Natural gas can be used to generate electricity in a number of ways. Often it can be used in the same way as other fossil fuels as a cleaner alternative.
- Steam generation units
Natural gas can be used in the same way as other fossil fuels in this process. The fuel is burned and a boiler is used to heat water and produce steam that then turns a turbine to generate electricity.
- Centralised gas turbines
In these units hot gases from burning fossil fuels (particularly natural gas) are used to turn the turbine and generate electricity.
- Combined cycle units
These use both a gas turbine and a steam unit, with the waste heat from the gas-turbine process used to generate steam.
- Natural gas can also be used to power back-up generators and distribute generated energy
Natural gas is a viable alternative fuel particularly useful in the transportation sector.
While Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs) can take the form of virtually any vehicle including utility vehicles, passenger cars and vans, they are mostly used for fuel intensive fleets, such as taxis and public buses.
As natural gas is low emission, it makes it easy for new vehicles to meet increasing environmental standards.