Natural Gas

What is Natural Gas

The first evidence found for the existence of natural gas has been recorded in the 6.000 and 2.000 BC in the area where now Iran is.

Scholars mention that the first to use natural gas were the Chinese around 900 BC and natural gas was being transported by pipelines made from bamboo. In Europe, natural gas was discovered only in 1659 in England.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the city of Fredonia in the district of New York has been lit by natural gas already from 1821. The use of natural gas continued to be limited though, since there was no way to transport over long distances.  Over a century natural gas use remained marginal, with industrial development being based on coal, oil and electricity.

The transmission of natural gas by pipelines was developed in the 1920s. After World War 2 a period of extended natural gas consumption begun, that continues up until today. In 1950 natural gas accounted for 12% of the energy consumed on global scale, percentage that increased to 14.6% in 1960 and 25% in 1980. In 1960 the natural gas production worldwide was 470 billion cubic meters, whereas in 1979 had reached 1.459 trillion cubic meters.

According to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates, after 2010  natural gas consumption will exceed the consumption of coal, and by 2030 it will be covering the1/4 of global energy needs.

Natural gas primarily consists of methane, including also ethane, propane butane and carbon dioxide, nitrogen, helium and hydrogen sulphide.

When natural gas is free of hydrocarbons (pure methane) is also called dry gas. Natural gas consisting of hydrocarbons apart from methane is called liquid natural gas. Natural gas is colorless and odorless, and its artificial odor helps leakage to be detected. Natural gas belongs in the second family of gaseous fuels and is lighter than air, having specific gravity of 0.59.

Natural gas burning, compared to other fossil fuels, has less harmful effect on the environment, since it emits less carbon dioxide for every energy unit produced. Following renewable energy sources, natural gas is the cleanest source of primary energy, having less emitted pollutants than conventional fuels.

Natural Gas Uses

Power generation with the use of natural gas as a fuel is developing at a great pace throughout Europe.

Particularly in Greece, this trend is now obvious, following the liberalization of the energy market, with electricity-heat co-generation and combined cycle plants becoming increasingly important.

The environment-friendly properties of natural gas, combined with the low operational cost and its high efficiency in thermal energy, make natural gas a unique fuel in power generation.

Natural gas is the natural energy choice for industries with direct and indirect thermal needs, enhancing their competitive edge. Natural gas can be described as a user-friendly, efficient, clean and economical fuel. It is also an abundant and reliable fuel, with advanced technology applications.

Main advantages in using natural gas in the industrial sector are:

  • Constant supply of the fuel that ensures uninterrupted operation and unblocks capital to maintain reserves and storage space.
  • Reduced pollution emissions, with a decisive contribution to a cleaner environment reducing the greenhouse effect.
  • Reduced operational cost in fuel and maintenance management.
  • Increased energy efficiency and economy.
  • Improved product quality.
  • Facility in handling and control.
  • Decentralization of thermal uses.

Natural gas at home provides ease, autonomy, safety and less strain on the family budget.

Through the continuous and stable supply of natural gas, every household can ensure:

  • Heating, without dependencies and with constant supply
  • Cooking and hot water without having to wait and being able to adjust the thermostat directly.

Key features of natural gas in the household are:

  • Autonomy, promptness and speed.
  • Constant and permanent supply, without dependencies.
  • Safety in use, without odours, noise and pollution.
  • Easy and simple installation of equipment with cleanliness and saving of space.
  • Longer life for appliances and equipment, with greater efficiency and smaller maintenance cost, without additional expenses for its smooth operation (tanks, pumps, preheater, etc.).
  • Savings at all levels, taking into account that gas consumption is not prepaid, as in the case of acquiring and burning oil to operate the central heating system.

Hotels and hospitals, educational institutions, athletic and cultural centers, large office buildings, recreational centers, malls and shops can all use natural gas.

They can take advantage of the benefits in achieving large scale savings and absolute functionality for heating, cooking, hot water as well as other specialized uses.

Natural gas will prove the most beneficial solution for the everyday needs of professional activity. Bakeries, restaurants, confectionery shops, silversmiths and goldsmiths, businesses using washing machines and dryers, auto body shops with paint ovens are among the many in the long list of natural gas consumers.

Key features of natural gas in the business sector are:

  • Avoidance of orders and delayed fuel deliveries.
  • Better utilization of space that today is used to store fuels (tanks).
  • Aesthetic perfection, increased cleanliness of areas and appliances.
  • Less appliance maintenance.
  • Rational energy use, reduced operational expenses, savings.
  • Prolonged life of equipment, while ensuring greater efficiency

Natural Gas Benefits

Natural Gas is the cleanest source of primary energy, second only to renewable forms. The numbers in emitted pollutants are clearly smaller compared to those of conventional fuels, whereas the improvement of the degree of efficiency reduces overall fuel consumption and consequently it further restricts atmospheric pollution.

Emitted pollutants in relation to other fuels during burning at a steam-production plant in mg/MJ of imported fuel heat:

Fueltype Particles Nitrogen Oxide Sulphur Dioxide Carbon Monoxide Carbohydrates
Coal 1.092 387 2.450 13 2
Crude Oil 96 170 1.400 14 3
Diesel 6 100 220 16 3
N.G. 4 100 0,3 17 1

Source: Supplement A in ‘List of Pollutants emitted in the Air”, October, 1986, Environmental Protection Service of the USA

The use of natural gas in combined cycle plants will result in a significant increase in power generation performance to 52-55% as opposed to 35-40% in conventional power generation plants.

Due to the ‘purity’ of the natural gas combustion products, gas could be used directly in certain industrial applications without the interference of alternators that cause energy losses. Finally, by substituting electricity with natural gas in final consumption, mainly in domestic and commercial usage, losses in converting the primary energy source into electricity and well as losses during the transmission of electricity will be avoided.

Natural Gas offers the opportunity to introduce new increased energy efficiency technologies to many industrial sectors.

It provides the incentive to modernize the energy outfitting of the plants. But it also leads to the production of qualitatively superior products in specific industrial plants.

Moreover, expanding its use to the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors it contributes effectively in dealing with unemployment by creating new jobs and specialized skills in the job market.

Do you know?

  • Gas transport through underground pipelines does not disturb people and does not hinder the environment
  • The gas industry provides around 305.000 jobs in the European Union
  • When burned to heat homes or for industrial uses, natural gas releases 25-30% less CO2 than oil and 40-50% less CO2 than coal per unit of energy produced
  • The number of natural gas vehicles (NVGs) in EU is around 1.850.000, and continuously growing
  • Replacing an old coal-fired plant with a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) can reduce the CO2 emissions by up to 70%
  • The share of natural gas in the power generation sector is 22 % worldwide
  • According to the World Economic Forum, between 2009-2035 the energy consumption worldwide is projected to increase approximately by 40%
  • Based on state-of-the-art technologies, efficiencies of up to 60% can be achieved in electricity generation with natural gas.
  • The reserves of gas that we already know about i.e. in conventional reservoirs, will provide enough to meet more than 120 years of demand at today’s consumption rates.
  • Natural gas produces little nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide or particulate matter
  • Natural gas power generation can be switched on and off quite quickly, making natural gas-fired power generation the fuel of choice to accommodate sudden changes in electricity demand or supply
  • LNG has been stored and shipped for 50 years with no major incident
  • The medium and low pressure networks owned by DEPA are 5.600 km
  • The high pressure networks owned by DESFA are 1.208 km