Many people know that natural gas was formed from decaying organic material deep under the earth about 100 million years ago. But here are a few other interesting facts about natural gas you may not know:
1. Gas smells bad
What we think of as the smell of gas, like rotten eggs, is actually added by companies to make leaks easier to detect because natural gas out of the ground is completely odourless.
2. Oldest mod con
Natural gas was first used in homes in the first century AD in Persia. Since pipes didn’t exist then, the king of Persia built his royal kitchen next to the flame lit from the gas seeping from the earth.
3. Bamboo pipes
The first gas pipelines were built in China in 500 BC. The lines, made out of bamboo, were set up where gas was seeping out and transported to where it was used to boil sea water, separating the salt and making it palatable. Possibly the earliest form of desalination too!
4. Super cold gas
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is made when natural gas is cooled to temperature of minus 161ºC. When it becomes liquid its volume is reduced more than 600 times. LNG is used to power cars, buses, taxis, and trucks.
5. Versatile gas
Natural gas isn’t just used for heating and cooking. Many every day products wouldn’t be possible without it, such as vinyl flooring, carpeting, piping, artificial limbs, heart valves, sun glasses, deodorant and mobile phones (just to name a few).
6. Cleaner fuel
Natural gas produces less than half the CO2 emissions of coal when burned. When used to heat homes or for industrial purposes, it releases 25-30% less CO2 than oil and 40-50% less than coal per unit of energy produced.
7. Which gas is which
Natural gas can be dry or wet. Dry natural gas is what is commonly thought of when we think of natural gas. Dry natural gas is almost completely methane whereas wet natural gas contains less than 85% methane and has a higher percentage of liquid natural gasses such as ethane and butane.
8. Make your own gas
Machines called digesters can turn today’s organic material (plants, animal waste, etc.) into natural gas. In this way we can hope to rely less on the gas available under ground and not have to wait another 100 million years for the gas to form naturally.