Natural Gas

Natural gas is a gas consisting primarily of methane. It is found associated with fossil fuels, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is created by methanogenic organisms in marshes, bogs, and landfills. It is an important fuel source, a major feedstock for fertilizers, and a potent greenhouse gas.

Natural gas is often informally referred to as simply gas, especially when compared to other energy sources such as electricity. Before natural gas can be used as a fuel, it must undergo extensive processing to remove almost all materials other than methane. The by-products of that processing include ethane, propane, butanes, pentanes and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons, elemental sulfur, and sometimes helium and nitrogen.

Fossil natural gas

In the past, natural gas was almost always a byproduct of producing oil, since the small, light gas carbon chains come out of solution as it undergoes pressure reduction from the reservoir to the surface, similar to uncapping a bottle of soda pop where the carbon dioxide effervesces. Unwanted natural gas can be a disposal problem at the well site. If there is not a market for natural gas near the wellhead it is virtually valueless since it must be piped to the end user. Until recently, such unwanted gas was burned off at the wellsite, but due to environmental concerns this practice is becoming less common. Often, unwanted (or 'stranded' gas without a market) gas is pumped back into the reservoir with an 'injection' well for disposal or repressurizing the producing formation. Another solution is to export the natural gas as a liquid. [2]Gas-to-liquid, (GTL) is a developing technology that converts stranded natural gas into synthetic gasoline, diesel or jet fuel through the Fischer-Tropsch process developed in World War II Germany. Such fuels can be transported through conventional pipelines and tankers to users. Proponents claim GTL fuels burn cleaner than comparable petroleum fuels. Most major international oil companies are in advanced development stages of GTL production, with a world-scale (140,000 bbl/day) GTL plant in Qatar scheduled to come online before 2010. In locations such as the United States with a high natural gas demand, pipelines are constructed to take the gas from the wellsite to the end consumer.

Fossil natural gas can be "associated" (found in oil fields) or "non-associated" (isolated in natural gas fields), and is also found in coal beds (as coalbed methane). It sometimes contains significant quantities of ethane, propane, butane, and pentane—heavier hydrocarbons removed prior to use as a consumer fuel—as well as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, helium and hydrogen sulfide.[1] Natural gas is commercially produced from oil fields and natural gas fields. Gas produced from oil wells is called casinghead gas or associated gas. The natural gas industry is producing gas from increasingly more challenging resource types: sour gas, tight gas, shale gas and coalbed methane.

The world's largest proven gas reserves are located in Russia, with 4.757 × 1013 m³ (1.6 × 1015 cu ft). Russia is also the world's largest natural gas producer, through the Gazprom company. Major proven resources (with year of estimate) (in billion cubic metres) are world 175,400 (2006), Russia 47,570 (2006), Iran 26,370 (2006), Qatar 25,790 (2007), Saudi Arabia 6,568 (2006) and United Arab Emirates 5,823 (2006).

The world's largest gas field is Qatar's offshore North Field, estimated to have 25 trillion cubic metres (9.0 × 1014 cu ft) of gas in place—enough to last more than 200 years at optimum production levels. The second largest natural gas field is the South Pars Gas Field in Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. Connected to Qatar's North Field, it has estimated reserves of 8 to 14 trillion cubic metres (2.8 × 1014 to 5.0 × 1014 cu ft) of gas.

Because natural gas is not a pure product, when non-associated gas is extracted from a field under supercritical (pressure/temperature) conditions, it may partially condense upon isothermic depressurizing—an effect called retrograde condensation. The liquids thus formed may get trapped by depositing in the pores of the gas reservoir. One method to deal with this problem is to reinject dried gas free of condensate to maintain the underground pressure and to allow reevaporation and extraction of condensates.

Town gas

Town gas is a mixture of methane and other gases, mainly the highly toxic carbon monoxide, that can be used in a similar way to natural gas and can be produced by treating coal chemically. This is a historic technology, still used as 'best solution' in some local circumstances, although coal gasification is not usually economic at current gas prices. However, depending upon infrastructure considerations, it remains a future possibility.

Most town "gashouses" located in the eastern United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were simple by-product coke ovens which heated bituminous coal in air-tight chambers. The gas driven off from the coal was collected and distributed through town-wide networks of pipes to residences and other buildings where it was used for cooking and lighting purposes. (Gas heating did not come into widespread use until the last half of the twentieth century.) The coal tar that collected in the bottoms of the gashouse ovens was often used for roofing and other water-proofing purposes, and also, when mixed with sand and gravel, was used for creating Bitumen for the surfacing of local streets.


When methane-rich gases are produced by the anaerobic decay of non-fossil organic matter (biomass), these are referred to as biogas (or natural biogas). Sources of biogas include swamps, marshes, and landfills (see landfill gas), as well as sewage sludge and manure[4] by way of anaerobic digesters, in addition to enteric fermentation particularly in cattle.

Methanogenic archaea are responsible for all biological sources of methane, some in symbiotic relationships with other life forms, including termites, ruminants, and cultivated crops. Methane released directly into the atmosphere would be considered a pollutant, however, methane in the atmosphere is oxidised, producing carbon dioxide and water. Methane in the atmosphere has a half life of seven years, meaning that every seven years, half of the methane present is converted to carbon dioxide and water.
U.S. Natural Gas Production 1900–2005 Source: EIA

Future sources of methane, the principal component of natural gas, include landfill gas, biogas and methane hydrate. Biogas, and especially landfill gas, are already used in some areas, but their use could be greatly expanded. Landfill gas is a type of biogas, but biogas usually refers to gas produced from organic material that has not been mixed with other waste.

Landfill gas is created from the decomposition of waste in landfills. If the gas is not removed, the pressure may get so high that it works its way to the surface, causing damage to the landfill structure, unpleasant odor, vegetation die-off and an explosion hazard. The gas can be vented to the atmosphere, flared or burned to produce electricity or heat. Experimental systems were being proposed for use in parts Hertfordshire, UK and Lyon in France.

Once water vapor is removed, about half of landfill gas is methane. Almost all of the rest is carbon dioxide, but there are also small amounts of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. There are usually trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide and siloxanes, but their concentration varies widely. Landfill gas cannot be distributed through natural gas pipelines unless it is cleaned up to the same quality. It is usually more economical to combust the gas on site or within a short distance of the landfill using a dedicated pipeline. Water vapor is often removed, even if the gas is combusted on site. If low temperatures condense water out of the gas, siloxanes can be lowered as well because they tend to condense out with the water vapor. Other non-methane components may also be removed in order to meet emission standards, to prevent fouling of the equipment or for environmental considerations. Co-firing landfill gas with natural gas improves combustion, which lowers emissions.

Biogas is usually produced using agricultural waste materials, such as otherwise unusable parts of plants and manure. Biogas can also be produced by separating organic materials from waste that otherwise goes to landfills. This is more efficient than just capturing the landfill gas it produces. Using materials that would otherwise generate no income, or even cost money to get rid of, improves the profitability and energy balance of biogas production.

Anaerobic lagoons produce biogas from manure, while biogas reactors can be used for manure or plant parts. Like landfill gas, biogas is mostly methane and carbon dioxide, with small amounts of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. However, with the exception of pesticides, there are usually lower levels of contaminants.


Huge quantities of natural gas (primarily methane) exist in the form of hydrates under sediment on offshore continental shelves and on land in arctic regions that experience permafrost such as those in Siberia (hydrates require a combination of high pressure and low temperature to form). However, as of 2009[update] no technology has been developed to produce natural gas economically from hydrates.

Tank Ship

A tank ship or tankship, often referred to as a tanker, is a ship designed to transport liquids in bulk. Major types of tankship include the oil tanker, the chemical tanker, and the liquefied natural gas carrier.

Tankers can range in size of capacity from several hundred tons, which includes vessels for servicing small harbours and coastal settlements, to several hundred thousand tons, for long-range haulage. Beside ocean- or seagoing tankers there are also specialized inland-waterway tankers which operate on rivers and canals with an average cargo capacity up to some thousand tons. A wide range of products are carried by tankers, including:

* hydrocarbon products such as oil, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and liquefied natural gas (LNG)

* chemicals, such as ammonia, chlorine, and styrene monomer
* fresh water

* wine

* molasses

Tankers are a relatively new concept, dating from the later years of the 19th century. Before this, technology had simply not supported the idea of carrying bulk liquids. The market was also not geared towards transporting or selling cargo in bulk, therefore most ships carried a wide range of different products in different holds and traded outside fixed routes. Liquids were usually loaded in casks - hence the term "tonnage", which refers to the volume of the holds in terms of the amount of tuns of wine (casks) that could be carried. Even potable water, vital for the survival of the crew, was stowed in casks. Carrying bulk liquids in earlier ships posed several problems:

* The holds: on timber ships the holds were not sufficiently water, oil or air-tight to prevent a liquid cargo from spoiling or leaking. The development of iron and steel hulls solved this problem.

* Loading and Discharging: Bulk liquids must be pumped - the development of efficient pumps and piping systems was vital to the development of the tanker. Steam engines were developed as prime-movers for early pumping systems. Dedicated cargo handling facilities were now required ashore too - as was a market for receiving a product in that quantity. Casks could be unloaded using ordinary cranes, and the awkward nature of the casks meant that the volume of liquid was always relatively small - therefore keeping the market more stable.

* Free Surface Effect: Describes the effect a large surface area of liquid in a ship will have on the stability of that ship. See Naval Architecture. Liquids in casks posed no problem, but one tank across the beam of a ship could pose a stability problem. Extensive sub-division of tanks solved this problem.

In the end, the tanker had its beginnings in the oil industry, as oil companies sought cheaper ways to transport their refinery product to their customers. The Oil Tanker was born. Today most liquids are cheaper to transport in bulk and dedicated terminals exist for each product. Large storage tanks ashore are used to store the product until it can be subdivided into smaller volumes for delivery to smaller customers.

Even the Guinness brewery company in Dublin had a tanker fleet to export the famous stout to the UK.

Different products require different handling and transport. Thus special types of tankers have been built, such as "chemical tankers" and "oil tankers". "LNG carriers", as they are typically known, are a relatively rare tanker designed to carry liquefied natural gas.

Among oil tankers, supertankers are designed for transporting oil around the Horn of Africa from the Middle East. The floating storage and offloading unit (FSO) Knock Nevis, formerly the ULCC Jahre Viking, is the largest vessel in the world. The supertanker is 458 metres (1504 feet) in length and 69 m (226 ft) wide.


A boiler is a closed vessel in which water or other fluid is heated. The heated or vaporized fluid exits the boiler for use in various processes or heating applications.


Boilers have many applications. They can be used in stationary applications to provide heat, hot water, or steam for domestic use, or in generators and they can be used in mobile applications to provide steam for locomotion in applications such as trains, ships, and boats. Using a boiler is a way to transfer stored energy from the fuel source to the water in the boiler, and then finally to the point of end use.


The pressure vessel in a boiler is usually made of steel (or alloy steel), or historically of wrought iron. Stainless steel is virtually prohibited (by the ASME Boiler Code) for use in wetted parts of modern boilers, but is used often in superheater sections that will not be exposed to liquid boiler water. In live steam models, copper or brass is often used because it is more easily fabricated in smaller size boilers. Historically, copper was often used for fireboxes (particularly for steam locomotives), because of its better formability and higher thermal conductivity; however, in more recent times, the high price of copper often makes this an uneconomic choice and cheaper substitutes (such as steel) are used instead.

For much of the Victorian "age of steam", the only material used for boilermaking was the highest grade of wrought iron, with assembly by rivetting. This iron was often obtained from specialist ironworks, such as at Cleator Moor (UK), noted for the high quality of their rolled plate and its suitability for high-reliability use in critical applications, such as high-pressure boilers. In the 20th century, design practice instead moved towards the use of steel, which is stronger and cheaper, with welded construction, which is quicker and requires less labour.

Cast iron may be used for the heating vessel of domestic water heaters. Although such heaters are usually termed "boilers", their purpose is usually to produce hot water, not steam, and so they run at low pressure and try to avoid actual boiling. The brittleness of cast iron makes it impractical for high pressure steam boilers.


The source of heat for a boiler is combustion of any of several fuels, such as wood, coal, oil, or natural gas. Electric steam boilers use resistance- or immersion-type heating elements. Nuclear fission is also used as a heat source for generating steam. Heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs) use the heat rejected from other processes such as gas turbines.


Boilers can be classified into the following configurations:

* "Pot boiler" or "Haycock boiler": a primitive "kettle" where a fire heats a partially-filled water container from below. 18th Century Haycock boilers generally produced and stored large volumes of very low-pressure steam, often hardly above that of the atmosphere. These could burn wood or most often, coal. Efficiency was very low.

* Fire-tube boiler. Here, water partially fills a boiler barrel with a small volume left above to accommodate the steam (steam space). This is the type of boiler used in nearly all steam locomotives. The heat source is inside a furnace or firebox that has to be kept permanently surrounded by the water in order to maintain the temperature of the heating surface just below boiling point. The furnace can be situated at one end of a fire-tube which lengthens the path of the hot gases, thus augmenting the heating surface which can be further increased by making the gases reverse direction through a second parallel tube or a bundle of multiple tubes (two-pass or return flue boiler); alternatively the gases may be taken along the sides and then beneath the boiler through flues (3-pass boiler). In the case of a locomotive-type boiler, a boiler barrel extends from the firebox and the hot gases pass through a bundle of fire tubes inside the barrel which greatly increase the heating surface compared to a single tube and further improve heat transfer. Fire-tube boilers usually have a comparatively low rate of steam production, but high steam storage capacity. Fire-tube boilers mostly burn solid fuels, but are readily adaptable to those of the liquid or gas variety.

* Water-tube boiler. In this type,the water tubes are arranged inside a furnace in a number of possible configurations: often the water tubes connect large drums, the lower ones containing water and the upper ones, steam and water; in other cases, such as a monotube boiler, water is circulated by a pump through a succession of coils. This type generally gives high steam production rates, but less storage capacity than the above. Water tube boilers can be designed to exploit any heat source and are generally preferred in high pressure applications since the high pressure water/steam is contained within small diameter pipes which can withstand the pressure with a thinner wall.

Boiler for steam locomotive

* Flash boiler. A specialized type of water-tube boiler.

* Fire-tube boiler with Water-tube firebox. Sometimes the two above types have been combined in the following manner: the firebox contains an assembly of water tubes, called thermic syphons. The gases then pass through a conventional firetube boiler. Water-tube fireboxes were installed in many Hungarian locomotives, but have met with little success in other countries.

* Sectional boiler. In a cast iron sectional boiler, sometimes called a "pork chop boiler" the water is contained inside cast iron sections. These sections are assembled on site to create the finished boiler.


Historically, boilers were a source of many serious injuries and property destruction due to poorly understood engineering principles. Thin and brittle metal shells can rupture, while poorly welded or riveted seams could open up, leading to a violent eruption of the pressurized steam. Collapsed or dislodged boiler tubes could also spray scalding-hot steam and smoke out of the air intake and firing chute, injuring the firemen who loaded coal into the fire chamber. Extremely large boilers providing hundreds of horsepower to operate factories could demolish entire buildings.

A boiler that has a loss of feed water and is permitted to boil dry can be extremely dangerous. If feed water is then sent into the empty boiler, the small cascade of incoming water instantly boils on contact with the superheated metal shell and leads to a violent explosion that cannot be controlled even by safety steam valves. Draining of the boiler could also occur if a leak occurred in the steam supply lines that was larger than the make-up water supply could replace. The Hartford Loop was invented in 1919 by the Hartford Steam Boiler and Insurance Company as a method to help prevent this condition from occurring, and thereby reduce their insurance claims.

Superheated steam boilers

A superheated boiler on a steam locomotive.

Most boilers heat water until it boils, and then the steam is used at saturation temperature (i.e., saturated steam). Superheated steam boilers boil the water and then further heat the steam in a superheater. This provides steam at much higher temperature, but can decrease the overall thermal efficiency of the steam generating plant due to the fact that the higher steam temperature requires a higher flue gas exhaust temperature. There are several ways to circumvent this problem, typically by providing a feedwater heating "ecomomizer", and/or a combustion air heater in the hot flue gas exhaust path. There are advantages to superheated steam and this may (and usually will) increase overall efficiency of both steam generation and its utilisation considered together: gains in input temperature to a turbine should outweigh any cost in additional boiler complication and expense. There may also be practical limitations in using "wet" steam, as causing condensation droplets will damage turbine blades.

Superheated steam presents unique safety concerns because, if there is a leak in the steam piping, steam at such high pressure/temperature can cause serious, instantaneous harm to anyone entering its flow. Since the escaping steam will initially be completely superheated vapor, it is not easy to see the leak, although the intense heat and sound from such a leak clearly indicates its presence.

The superheater works like coils on an air conditioning unit, however to a different end. The steam piping (with steam flowing through it) is directed through the flue gas path in the boiler furnace. This area typically is between 1,300 °C (2,372 °F)-1,600 °C (2,912 °F). Some superheaters are radiant type (absorb heat by radiation), others are convection type (absorb heat via a fluid i.e. gas) and some are a combination of the two. So whether by convection or radiation the extreme heat in the boiler furnace/flue gas path will also heat the superheater steam piping and the steam within as well. It is important to note that while the temperature of the steam in the superheater is raised, the pressure of the steam is not: the turbine or moving pistons offer a "continuously expanding space" and the pressure remains the same as that of the boiler. The process of superheating steam is most importantly designed to remove all droplets entrained in the steam to prevent damage to the turbine blading and/or associated piping.

Gas Flare

A gas flare or flare stack is an elevated vertical stack or chimney found on oil wells or oil rigs, and in refineries, chemical plants and landfills used for burning off unwanted gas or flammable gas and liquids released by pressure relief valves during unplanned over-pressuring of plant equipment. In landfills, the primary purpose of this device is to vent and/or burn waste gas which results from the decomposition of materials in the dump.

Recently, under the Kyoto Treaty, some developing countries garbage collecting companies have received carbon bonus for installing burning chimneys for the methane gas produced at their landfills, preventing methane from reaching the atmosphere. After the burning, this gas is converted to heat, water and CO2, and according to the Third assessment report of the IPCC, as Methane is 23 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2 the greenhouse effect is reduced in the same order.

On oil production rigs, in refineries and chemical plants, its primary purpose is to act as a safety device to protect vessels or pipes from over-pressuring due to unplanned upsets. This acts just like the spout on a tea kettle when it starts whistling as the water in it starts boiling. Whenever plant equipment items are over-pressured, the pressure relief valves on the equipment automatically release gases (and sometimes liquids as well) which are routed through large piping runs called flare headers to the flare stacks. The released gases and/or liquids are burned as they exit the flare stacks. The size and brightness of the resulting flame depends upon how much flammable material was released. Steam can be injected into the flame to reduce the formation of black smoke. The injected steam does however make the burning of gas sound louder, which can cause complaints from nearby residents. Compared to the emission of black smoke, it can be seen as a valid trade off. In more advanced flare tip designs, if the steam used is too wet it can freeze just below the tip, disrupting operations and causing the formation of large icicles. In order to keep the flare system functional, a small amount of gas is continuously burned, like a pilot light, so that the system is always ready for its primary purpose as an over-pressure safety system. The continuous gas source also helps diluted mixtures achieve complete combustion.

Flaring and venting of natural gas in oil wells is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Its contribution to greenhouse gases has declined by three-quarters in absolute terms since a peak in the 1970s of approximately 110 million metric tons/year and now accounts for 0.5% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The World Bank estimates that over 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas are flared or vented annually, an amount worth approximately 30.6 billion dollars, equivalent to the combined annual gas consumption of Germany and France, twice the annual gas consumption of Africa, three quarters of Russian gas exports, or enough to supply the entire world with gas for 20 days. This flaring is highly concentrated: 10 countries account for 75% of emissions, and twenty for 90%.[5] The largest flaring operations occur in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The leading contributors to gas flaring are (in declining order): Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Algeria, Mexico, Venezuela, Indonesia, and the United States. In spite of a ruling by the Federal High Court of Nigeria (that forbade flaring) in 2005, 43% of the of the gas retrieval was still being flared in 2006. It will be prohibited by law as of 2008.

Russia has announced it will stop the practice of gas flaring as stated by deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday September 19, 2007. This step was, at least in part, a response to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that concluded Russia's previous numbers may have been underestimated. The report, which used night time light pollution satellite imagery to estimate flaring, put the estimate for Russia at 50 billion cubic meters while the official numbers are 15 or 20 billion cubic meters. The number for Nigeria is 23 billion cubic meters.

Cooling Tower

Cooling towers are heat removal devices used to transfer process waste heat to the atmosphere. Cooling towers may either use the evaporation of water to remove process heat and cool the working fluid to near the wet-bulb air temperature or rely solely on air to cool the working fluid to near the dry-bulb air temperature. Common applications include cooling the circulating water used in oil refineries, chemical plants, power stations and building cooling. The towers vary in size from small roof-top units to very large hyperboloid structures (as in Image 1) that can be up to 200 metres tall and 100 metres in diameter, or rectangular structures (as in Image 2) that can be over 40 metres tall and 80 metres long. Smaller towers are normally factory-built, while larger ones are constructed on site.

Industrial cooling towers

Industrial cooling towers can be used to remove heat from various sources such as machinery or heated process material. The primary use of large, industrial cooling towers is to remove the heat absorbed in the circulating cooling water systems used in power plants, petroleum refineries, petrochemical plants, natural gas processing plants, food processing plants, semi-conductor plants, and other industrial facilities. The circulation rate of cooling water in a typical 700 MW coal-fired power plant with a cooling tower amounts to about 71,600 cubic metres an hour (315,000 U.S. gallons per minute)[2] and the circulating water requires a supply water make-up rate of perhaps 5 percent (i.e., 3,600 cubic metres an hour).

If that same plant had no cooling tower and used once-through cooling water, it would require about 100,000 cubic metres an hour [3] and that amount of water would have to be continuously returned to the ocean, lake or river from which it was obtained and continuously re-supplied to the plant. Furthermore, discharging large amounts of hot water may raise the temperature of the receiving river or lake to an unacceptable level for the local ecosystem. Elevated water temperatures can kill fish and other aquatic organisms. (See thermal pollution.) A cooling tower serves to dissipate the heat into the atmosphere instead and wind and air diffusion spreads the heat over a much larger area than hot water can distribute heat in a body of water. Some coal-fired and nuclear power plants located in coastal areas do make use of once-through ocean water. But even there, the offshore discharge water outlet requires very careful design to avoid environmental problems.

Petroleum refineries also have very large cooling tower systems. A typical large refinery processing 40,000 metric tonnes of crude oil per day (300,000 barrels per day) circulates about 80,000 cubic metres of water per hour through its cooling tower system.

The world's tallest cooling tower is the 200 metre tall cooling tower of Niederaussem Power Station.


Crossflow is a design in which the air flow is directed perpendicular to the water flow (see diagram below). Air flow enters one or more vertical faces of the cooling tower to meet the fill material. Water flows (perpendicular to the air) through the fill by gravity. The air continues through the fill and thus past the water flow into an open plenum area. A distribution or hot water basin consisting of a deep pan with holes or nozzles in the bottom is utilized in a crossflow tower. Gravity distributes the water through the nozzles uniformly across the fill material.


In a counterflow design the air flow is directly opposite to the water flow (see diagram below). Air flow first enters an open area beneath the fill media and is then drawn up vertically. The water is sprayed through pressurized nozzles and flows downward through the fill, opposite to the air flow.