Without the odorless and colorless gas that is natural gas, who knows how the world would be. To get the scoop on the gas that powers the world around us keep on reading.
What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is formed underground and is primarily constructed of methane (CH4) and smaller quantities of hydrocarbons. It forms underground over a period of millions to hundreds of millions of years. This process happens when the remains of plants and animals build up in thick layers on earth’s surface and ocean floors. Over time, these layers are buried under sand, silt, and rock. Then once buried, they become subject to high pressure and heat. The combination of these changes causes some of the material to form into oil, and some into natural gas.
Where is it Found?
Natural gas is found in underground rock reservoirs which can be on land or offshore. These rock reservoirs hold water and sometimes oil while the gas stays trapped underground by impermeable rock, called caprock. In some cases, the gas moves into large cracks and spaces between layers of overlying rock. The gasses found in those types of formations is called conventional natural gas. Gasses can also occur in the tiny pores within some formations of shale, sandstone, and other sedimentary rocks. This gas is referred to as shale gas, tight gas, and unconventional natural gas. Lastly, natural gas can also occur near deposits of crude oil–this form of natural gas is called associated natural gas.
Obtaining Natural Gas through Drilling
The search for natural gas begins with geologists using seismic surveys to find the right places to wells. These surveys can be used both on land and in the ocean. If the result of the surveys indicate that a site has potential for producing natural gas, then an exploratory well is drilled and tested. During test drilling, if the well has enough natural gas to extract and make a profit, development wells are drilled.
In the United States and a few other countries, natural gas is extracted by forcing water, chemicals, and sand down a well under high pressure. This process called hydraulic fracking, breaks up the rock formation. Doing so releases natural gas and allows it to easily flow up to the wells to the surface. At the surface the gas is put into gathering pipelines and sent to processing plants.
How it’s Processed for Usage
Once it reaches the processing plant, the various hydrocarbons and fluids are separated from the pure natural gas, creating either dry or wet gas. Dry gas is gas that contains mostly methane, while wet gas contains mainly ethane and butane. This process involves four main steps: oil and condensate removal, water removal, separation of natural gas liquids, and sulfur and carbon dioxide removal. Once it has been processed, gas is then transported through pipelines called feeders to either distribution centers or underground reservoirs for storage. In some cases, gas is liquefied and stored in large tankers to be shipped across oceans–this type of gas is called LNG.
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