Natural Gas – A Greenhouse Gas Problem?
Natural gas is a highly volatile and combusted fuel derived from petroleum. It is also called methane, although technically it is a gaseous mixture rather than a gas. When natural gas is extracted it is usually sent through a venturi tube to a compressor in a drilled bore. The compressed natural gas is then sent to a gasification unit, where it is de-mineralized and filtered, before being released into the atmosphere. This process produces methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and nitrogen; collectively this is called a gas called a Brown’s gas.
Natural gas is one of the world’s largest sources of energy,
providing a wide range of applications. Because it is so plentiful, extracting it from natural gas reserves is one of the most important environmental issues of our time. Unfortunately, extracting natural gas from the earth’s many natural reservoirs is a complicated process, requiring large amounts of water, drilling, and many chemicals. Extracting it from the atmosphere requires expensive technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. This has resulted in a serious dwindling of the earth’s natural gas reserves.
In addition to decreasing natural gas supplies,
the method of extracting it from the earth’s surface has several negative impacts on the environment. The drilling for natural gas and the associated infrastructure required not only extracts the natural gas but also contaminates the fragile global food supply with toxic chemicals that are emitted during the drilling and pumping process. The transportation of these toxic chemicals, as well as the byproducts produced during the extraction process, have caused pollution in several regions of the world. These emissions have led to an increasing demand for organic matter to replace the natural gas that is required to run our civilization, as well as threaten the earth’s delicate ecosystem.
One major concern for the Earth’s future is global warming.
Once the natural gas is extracted from the earth’s surface, it will be burned to produce heat, which leads to global climate change. Many of the natural gas reserves that are being exploited now will lock in carbon dioxide locked in the natural gas pores of the earth, and these carbon emissions are leading to a steadily increasing level of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
This problem is leading to predictions of a severe drought and global cooling.
Even in places that do not suffer severe drought or other drought-like conditions, methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are leading to increased amounts of global warming. The gas that is commonly extracted from natural gas reserves tends to lock up carbon dioxide in the soil, leading to a steady increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Some experts believe that the Earth’s average temperature may increase as much as two degrees Celsius by the end of this century. methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but less than half of one percent of methane is vented into the atmosphere, leaving a small amount to worry about. This small amount is causing methane to be considered a major environmental problem.
So what can we do to solve this problem?
Some environmentalists have proposed building large-scale infrastructure to produce methane from natural sources and to process it for use in homes. Such technology is currently not available, however. Another solution being considered is to use technology to extract methane from the ground at an oil rig, liquefy it, and then inject it into an existing venting system to generate electricity. This technology could potentially solve the methane production problems, while also providing a large amount of electricity.