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Shakina WilliamsSCI231: Pollution, The Environment, and Society January 18,2018 All About Natural Gas What is Natural Gas?Natural gas occurs deep beneath the earth’s surface. Natural gas consists of mainly methane or CH4, a compound with four hydrocarbon atoms and one carbon atom. Natural gas is colourless, odourless, tasteless, shapeless and lighter than air. It is considered the cleanest burning fossil fuel. When it burns, natural gas produces mostly carbon dioxide, water vapor and particles of nitrogen oxides. Natural gas was formed millions of years ago by the remains of plants and animals. As these microscopic plants and animals lived, they absorbed energy from the sun, which was stored as carbon molecules in their bodies. When they died they sank to the bottom of the sea and were covered by thick layers of sand, silt, and rocks. Over time the pressure and heat converted these organic matters into natural gas. The natural gas moves into small spaces between layers of overlying rocks. Some natural gas migrated to the surface and shows up in seeps, while other gas molecules travel until they are trapped in layers of rock, shale, salt or clay. These trapped deposits are where we find oil and natural gas today.Exploration Advanced technology has improved the exploration process for natural gas and helps geologist find potential reserves. A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth. They locate the types of rocks that may contain natural gas. Geologists often use seismic surveys which send high-energy sound waves into the ground and measures how long they take to reflect back to the surface. The computer uses seismic data to create three-dimensional maps of what lies below the surface. This map is used to find accumulations of natural gas. Once a reservoir is located, an exploratory well is drilled and tested to effectively begin draining the natural gas. In the United States, natural gas is produced from shale and other types of rock formations that contain natural gas. The rock formation is broken down by forcing water or chemicals down the well. Natural gas exploration affects the environment by disturbing plants and soil in the area. Drilling a natural gas well on land may require clearing forests around the well site.The Process of Creating a Drill Site Natural gas companies must secure permission from the government or mineral owner before creating a drill site. Many owners and the government allows natural gas companies to drill on their land assuming they will be responsible for all the costs of drilling, in return the mineral owners will receive a fraction of profits. After the agreement is made, the natural gas company assembles the drilling rig and a drilling derrick which is used to position and support the drill string. The drill cuts the rock into rice-sized particles while the steel casing keeps the hole open so that oil and natural gas can be brought to the surface. The land-based drilling rig is the most common type used for exploration because it is smaller and more efficient. Advanced drilling techniques allow natural gas companies to reach more reserves while reducing the environmental impact. Techniques include horizontal drilling, multilateral drilling, extended reach drilling, and complex path drilling. Horizontal drilling can only be used in certain locations. Horizontal “legs” can stretch over a mile long, allowing more natural gas to be drained at a faster rate. Some natural gas reserves are located in separate layers underground. Multilateral drilling allows producers to reach multiple reserves from a single well. Extended reach drills allow producers to reach reserves undersurface areas where a vertical well cannot be drilled, such as underdeveloped or environmentally sensitive areas. Complex path drilling produces less waste and can be more cost-effective than drilling multiple wells. The well path can drain multiple accumulations from the same well. Advances in drilling and natural gas recovery technologies significantly reduce disturbed land areas. Horizontal drilling and multilateral drilling produces more natural gas from a single well. Hydraulic FracturingA mixture of water, sand and chemicals is shot down the well at high pressure.The pressurized mix causes fissures to develop. The sand in the mixture helps keep the fissures open, allowing oil to seep into the well.The seeping oil is then pumped back up the well.Hydraulic fracturing, also commonly called fracking has opened up shale deposits that were previously too expensive to develop. Fracking occurs after a well has been drilled and the steel casing has been inserted in the wellbore. FracFocus define hydraulic fracturing as “the use of fluid and material to create or restore small fractures in a formation in order to stimulate production from new and existing oil and gas wells.” Large quantities of liquid are pumped under high pressure to fracture or crack the rock formation. Hydraulic fracturing fluid commonly consists of water, proppant, and chemicals that open and enlarge fractures within the rock formation. These fractures can extend over a mile away from the wellbore.  The proppants which include sand and ceramic beads are injected into the target formation to hold open the fractures. Once the fractures have been created, natural gas is able to escape from the rock and flow back to the surface. Fracking allows for the extended production of older oil and natural gas drill sites. The ability to produce more natural gas from older wells and develop new production sites that were thought impossible has made hydraulic fracturing valuable for domestic energy production. Hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling allows multiple wells to be drilled from one spot, reducing the size of the drilling area above ground by as much as 90 percent. Extracting Natural GasExtracting natural gas from deposits deep underground can be done three ways: primary recovery, secondary recovery, and enhanced recovery. Primary recovery relies on underground pressure to drive fluids to the surface which only allows 10 percent of the substance to be available. The secondary recovery technique injects the water that was used and separated during drilling into the deposit to recover 30 percent of the underground natural gas and oil. Enhanced recovery techniques allow up to 60 percent of the reserve to the surface. These techniques include thermal recovery, gas injection, and chemical flooding. The heat from the steam makes the oil flow more easily to the surface. Gas injection uses miscible or immiscible gases such as propane or nitrogen to increase pressure. The mixture used in chemical flooding pushes the oil and natural gas into the wellbore.Exporting Natural Gas  Natural gas is transported through an underground pipeline system. The natural gas pipelines transport more than one-fourth the amount of energy consumed in our country. The pipelines stretch about 2.5 million miles across the country which includes 2.2 million miles of local utility distribution pipelines and 300,000 miles of transmission pipelines. Transportation by pipeline is the safest form of energy delivery in the US. Storage of natural gas helps to ensure that sufficient supplies of natural gas are available. Natural gas is stored in empty natural gas fields or in underground salt caverns. These underground facilities can safely trap and contain natural gas. Liquefied natural gas refers to converting natural gas to a liquid form allowing safe transportation by tanker ships and trucks. Once the liquified natural gas reaches its destination, it is converted back and transported through the pipelines.Uses of Natural Gas The first use of gas energy in the United States was in 1816 for street gaslights in Baltimore, Maryland. By 1900, natural gas was used in 17 states. Today, natural gas is used extensively in commercial, residential, and industrial sectors. More than 5.4 million people use natural gas for heating buildings and generating electricity including schools, hospitals, restaurants, retail stores, and public halls. Natural gas is measured in British thermal units or Btu. According to the US Energy Information Administration, In 2016, the electric power sector accounted for about 36% of U.S. natural gas consumption, and natural gas was the source of about 27% of the U.S. electric power sector energy consumption (2017). Natural gas is used to heat buildings and water to cook and shower.  About half of the homes in the United States use natural gas for these purposes. Natural gas is also used to produce steel, glass, paper, clothing,  brick, and plastic. Some products that use natural gas as a raw material are paint, fertilizer, dyes, photographic film, and medicines. Main commercial uses of natural gas are food service providers, hotels, healthcare facilities or office buildings. Natural gas is more environmentally friendly that coal or oil.  The Benefits of Natural Gas Use Natural gas is a major source of energy in the US. Burning natural gas for energy results in fewer emissions of nearly all types of air pollutants than burning coal or oil to produce an equal amount of energy. Natural gas is considered a cleaner fossil fuel because it emits 45% less carbon dioxide than coal and 30% less than oil. Natural gas emits less pollution into the atmosphere. Some natural gas leaks into the atmosphere from oil and natural gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines, and processing plants. To prevent these old wellbores are plugged after 15-30 years to reduce underground fluids from getting into groundwater. As a safety procedure, land-based sites are restored every year. Natural gas production companies fill the casing of the drilling rig with cement removing the wellheads, pump jacks, tanks, pipes, facilities, and equipment. Natural gas development has increased as a result of technological advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This produces more natural gas without drilling numerous wells. Natural gas eliminates the threat of oil spills, soil contamination, and costly environmental clean-up. Natural gas is more convenient. The energy source is piped directly to the customer’s facility through the safe, efficient pipeline system. The pipeline system cannot be easily damaged and is safely maintained by companies. Natural gas can do more than heat your home. It can be used for water heating, clothes drying, and cooking. It can also be used outdoors for barbecuing, gas lighting, and heat your swimming pool or hot tub. Natural Gas Effects on the EnvironmentDespite fewer emissions, natural gas is still a source of greenhouse gases and is a nonrenewable energy resource. Natural gas contains about 80-95% of methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas. It is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas behind carbon dioxide. More than 60% of methane emissions come from human activities and 30% from the natural gas and petroleum industries. Some natural gas leaks into the atmosphere from oil and natural gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines, and processing plants. These leaks were the source of about 32% of total U.S. methane emissions in 2015.Natural gas wells and pipelines produce air pollutants and noise. Well drilling produces air pollution and may disturb people, wildlife, and water resources. Creating pipelines that transport natural gas from wells usually requires clearing large fields of land to bury the pipes. Extracting natural gas from wellbores leads to decrease pressure in the earth’s surface. This may result in sinking of the ground and issues with the sewer and water supply system. Natural gas production can also produce large volumes of contaminated water which require proper handling and storage. If mismanaged, chemical fluids could be release through spills and leaks. Fracking raises a few environmental concerns. Hydraulic fracturing produces large amounts of wastewater at the surface, which may contain chemicals and other contaminants that require proper handling and treatment so that it does not pollute land and other waterways. Because of the large quantity of contaminated water produced proper disposal of the wastewater is important. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, hydraulic fracturing “…causes small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. In addition to natural gas, fracking fluids and formation waters are returned to the surface. These wastewaters are frequently disposed of by injection into deep wells. The injection of wastewater into the subsurface can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and may cause damage.” States such as Oklahoma and Texas have ongoing earthquakes that are linked to fracking and the disposal of wastewater after fracking. Hydraulic fracturing is solely responsible for more than 50 earthquakes in 2011. Other safety concerns of the natural gas infrastructure are aging pipelines are vulnerable to leaks and explosions. In 2010 there was a massive gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California that killed eight people and damaged the neighborhood. Pipes are decaying in major cities such as New York City which can explode at any time. Fixing leaking pipes can cost tons of money.Natural gas can be more beneficial than other fossil fuels. It is the most commonly used fuel in homes and building for heating, electricity, and cooking purposes. Natural gas is far more energy efficient and cheaper to run on. Fossil fuel derives from the decay of plants and animal life. fossil fuels are non renewable energy because they take millions of years to form and reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are being formed. Although natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel, it is nonrenewable and will eventually expire one day like other fossil fuels. The US needs to invest heavily in the renewable form of energy before it is too late. Natural gas is limited and is not a sustainable form of energy.   Works CitedChen, Jiangang, et al. “Hydraulic Fracturing: Paving the Way for a Sustainable Future?” Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2014 (2014): 1-10. CrossRef. Web.Environment through, and Ages. Degradation of Natural Environment;.Print.”Hydraulic Fracturing – how it Works | FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry.” Web.”Hydraulic Fracturing: The Process | FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry.” Web.”U.S. Energy Facts – Energy Explained, Your Guide to Understanding Energy – Energy Information Administration.” (2017)Web.”What is Natural Gas? | American Gas Association.” (2018)Web. 

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