Science & Technology

Gas Flaring: The Need To Rescue The Environmental And Economic Degradation

Natural Gas is vital to America’s manufacturers, not only to power their operations, but also as an essential feedstock for many of the products we use daily — clothing, carpets, sports equipment, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, computers, and auto parts. It is also a primary feedstock for chemicals, plastics and fertilizers. Natural gas is also an essential raw material for many common products, such as: paints , fertilizer, plastics, antifreeze, dyes, photographic film, medicines, and explosives. Industry depends on it. Natural gas has thousands of uses. It’s used to produce steel, glass, paper, clothing, brick, electricity and much more! Homes use it too. More than 62.5 percent of homes use natural gas to fuel stoves, furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers and other household appliances. It is also used to roast coffee, smoke meats, bake bread and much more.

Natural gas is a clean burning domestic energy source that powers our economy. It cools and warms our homes and businesses, is used to generate electricity, and helps maintain our quality of life. As a fuel, natural gas is convenient and efficient. It is used primarily for heat, in industrial, commercial and residential settings. In many homes the house and water are heated by gas, the food is cooked with it and clothes dried. Gas is also used to produce electricity, in some cases using gas fired turbines that are similar to jet engines, in others to fire steam boilers. Small gas-fired generators, called micro turbines, have recently been introduced. Gas is often used to heat industrial and commercial boilers and pressure vessels. Natural gas burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels. It has fewer emissions of sulfur, carbon, and nitrogen than coal or oil, and it has almost no ash particles left after burning. Being a clean fuel is one reason that the use of natural gas, especially for electricity generation, has grown so much and is expected to grow even more in the future.

Of course, there are environmental concerns with the use of any fuel. As with other fossil fuels, burning natural gas produces carbon dioxide, which is the most important greenhouse Many scientists believe that increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere are changing the global climate. As with other fuels, natural gas also affects the environment when it is produced, stored and transported. Because natural gas is made up mostly of methane (another greenhouse gas), small amounts of methane can sometimes leak into the atmosphere from wells, storage tanks and pipelines. The natural gas industry is working to prevent any methane from escaping. Exploring and drilling for natural gas will always have some impact on land and marine habitats. But new technologies have greatly reduced the number and size of areas disturbed by drilling, sometimes called “footprints.” Satellites, global positioning systems, remote sensing devices, and 3-D and 4-D seismic technologies, make it possible to discover natural gas reserves while drilling fewer wells. Plus, the use of horizontal and directional drilling make it possible for a single well to produce gas from much bigger areas.

Natural gas pipelines and storage facilities have a very good safety record. This is very important because when natural gas leaks it can cause explosions. Since raw natural gas has no odor, natural gas companies add a smelly substance to it so that people will know if there is a leak. If you have a natural gas stove, you may have smelled this “rotten egg” smell of natural gas when the pilot light has gone out. Consumers, industries, and can all benefit from its use. Here are just some examples of the many uses of natural gas. Uses of natural gas in transportation cover everything from cars and trucks to heavy-duty service vehicles. “Clean Air” natural gas buses are popular in Canada and some European countries, and more vehicles are now running on dual fuel, allowing owners to switch between gasoline or natural gas depending on needs and circumstances. Tupolev a Russian Firm is working on the design of an aircraft that would be able to fly on a combination of natural gas and hydrogen.

Many home appliances run on natural gas, including furnaces, barbecues, fireplace logs, pool and spa heaters, and fire pits. Uses of natural gas at home also include residential heating, with 51 percent of American homes choosing gas as their main source of heat. Natural gas air conditioning is not as popular as the electrical alternative, but it does exist. Uses of natural gas in the industrial sector are divided between production and energy. Natural gas is used in the making of anti-freeze and plastic. Food processing industries use basically only natural gas to power up their plants, but waste treatment and petroleum refining are also big consumers of natural gas. Because many gases can be extracted as a sub product of natural gas, the uses of natural gas go beyond what the gas itself can provide.

Because natural gas is cleaner than coal or petroleum, scientists are researching new ways to use and produce it. Many scientists are interested in using natural gas to generate electricity. Engineers have already developed ways to use coal/petroleum and natural gas together to generate electricity, but a device called a fuel cell can use natural gas alone. A fuel cell is similar to a battery. It uses a chemical process rather than combustion (burning) to convert the energy of a fuel into electricity. The chemical process is much more energy-efficient than combustion and it emits no air pollutants. Unfortunately, the technology to generate electricity from fuel cells must be improved if it is to be commercially successful.

Scientists are also researching new ways to obtain natural (methane) gas from biomass–a fuel source derived from plant and animal wastes. Methane gas is naturally produced whenever organic matter decays. Today we can drill shallow wells into landfills to recover the methane gas. Landfills are already required to collect methane gas as a safety measure. Typically, landfills collect the gas and bum it to get rid of it. But the gas can be put to work. Last year over four billion cubic feet of landfill methane gas was used for heating and electricity production. There are other ways to convert biomass into natural gas. One method converts aquatic plants, such as sea kelp, into methane gas. In the future, huge kelp farms could also produce renewable gas energy.

Another successful development has been the conversion of natural gas into a liquid state. In its liquid state, natural gas is called LNG, or liquid natural gas. LNG is made by cooling natural gas to a temperature of minus 260 degrees F. At that temperature, natural gas becomes a liquid and its volume is reduced 615 times. (A car reduced 615 times would fit on your thumbnail.) Liquid natural gas is easier to store than the gaseous form since it takes up much less space. LNG is also easier to transport. People can put LNG in special tanks and transport it on trucks or ships. Today more than 100 LNG storage facilities are operating in the United States.

While Nigeria’s development of the oil, the raw material that petroleum products are made from; a black liquid fossil fuel found deep in the Earth-gasoline and most plastics are made from oil returns false mirage. Oil sector has been good for the country’s economy, oil sector development as well, has had an adverse impact on the country’s environment. The use of solid biomass, such as fuel wood, is prevalent and constitutes a major energy source for rural Nigerians. The production and consumption of commercial renewable energy in Nigeria remains quite limited.

Oil extraction in the Niger Delta region has caused severe environmental degradation, owing to the legacy of oil spills, lax environmental regulations, and government complicity during military regimes that once governed the country. Although the situation is improving with more stringent environmental regulations for the oil industry, marine pollution is still a serious problem. Air pollution from natural gas, though odourless, colourless, tasteless, non-toxic clean-burning fossil fuel. Natural Gas flaring, exhaust emissions from the explosion in car ownership, and electricity generators continue to leave Lagos shrouded in smog.

With Nigeria‘s population continuing to increase, the pressure on the country’s environment is due to increase as well. Even with the added focus on cleaning up the Niger Delta and tightening environmental laws and regulations, gas flaring remained the nightmare and threat in the life of these poverty-ridden dwellers. Nigeria is an oil-rich Cinderella state that never quite made it to the ball. During the 1970s, when oil prices rocketed, Nigeria looked set to become the shining example of a prosperous and democratic West African republic but perversely managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The gas flaring have rebounded but grief and sorrow have multiplied in our citizens.

The stake-holders of all the oil operating companies in this nation should join hand with our government and citizens to harness this natural gas very well to meaningfully reverse the adverse effect to an economically-prone effect that could better the lots of the Niger Deltans and Nigerians at large, as done inside the developed nations.

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