Natural gas provides the primary source of energy in homes and industries due to its availability. Moreover, it is cheap and has high-energy content. Chandra states that natural gas is the “most flexible of all primary fossil fuels because it can be burned directly to generate power and heat, converted to diesel for transportation fuel, and chemically altered to produce a plethora of useful products” (1). Hence, flexibility in the use of natural gas makes it a dominant source of fuel in homes and industries. The physical and chemical properties of natural gas reflect its usage as a dominant source of energy.
For its physical properties, natural gas is a mixture of gases such as hydrocarbon gases, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, oxygen, and rare gases. Natural gas is an odorless and colorless gas that occurs naturally beneath the surface of the earth. According to Liang, Rybak, Sayeed, and Zhao, the hydrocarbons present in the natural gas are butane, propane, ethane, and methane, out of which methane is the most dominant among the mixture forming over 70% of natural gas (4).
The melting and boiling points of the gas are varying because it is a mixture of gases with different melting and boiling points. Given that methane is the most dominant gas in the mixture, it has a boiling pint of -1610C. Since the state of natural gas at room temperature and pressure is gas, liquefaction occurs at temperatures below -1610C. Methane, the dominant gas, has a specific gravity of 0.5537 and a vapor density of 0.668kg/m3 at room temperature and pressure.
The chemical property of the gas is that it is highly flammable and produces much heat. Its flammability properties and production of lots of heat make it a principal source of energy in both homes and industries across the world. Liang, Rybak, Sayeed, and Zhao describe the use of natural gas as, “more environmentally friendly than oil and coal due to lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit, less costly per unit of energy” (1). However, the flammability property makes natural gas a hazard if not stored and used properly.
Storage and transpiration
To enhance its use as a source of heat in homes and industries, natural gas is stored and transported in a liquid state. Natural gas liquefies temperature of -1610C. Liquefied natural gas is easy to store and transport to various destinations for domestic and industrial uses. The liquefaction process is significant because it reduces the volume of natural gas by 600 times, making it economical to transport and store the gas (Chandra 41). Ships normally transport the liquefied gas from one continent to another, while pipelines and tanker transport in the mainland.
A cargo ship was transporting liquefied natural gas across the Atlantic Ocean when it collided with another ship in the middle of the ocean. The accident was so severe that the ships exploded into flames immediately after the natural gas started leaking into the ocean. Even after an emergency rescue team arrived at the scene, it was unable to put off the flames given that the constant flow of the liquefied natural gas-fuelled the flame. Therefore, the rescue team had to devise means of blocking the openings that were leaking the liquid in order to control the spread of the flame in the ocean. Eventually, the team managed to control the flames after sealing the openings through which the flammable liquid leaked into the ocean waters.
Chandra, Vivek. Fundamentals of natural gas: An international perspective. London: PennWell Books, 2003. Print.
Liang, Fang-Yu, Marta Rybak, Sara Sayeed, and Nick Zhao. The role of natural gas as a Primary fuel in the near future, including comparisons of acquisition, transmission, and waste handling costs as with competitive alternatives. Chemistry Central Journal 6.1 (2012): 1-24. Print.