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Natural gas

Natural gas is a commodity used as an energy source. It can be used to heat homes, and to power some vehicles.

Expanded Definition

Natural gas is priced by the 1000 cubic ft (mcf). The heating value of natural gas sold in interstate pipelines is required to be a minimun of 1000 btu/cu ft. Hence, 1 million btu's is considered the equivalent of an mcf for most purposes. However, when converted to the measured energy content of a given lot of gas, the resulting number is a therm. Hence, if the measured heat of combustion of the gas is 1090 btu/cu ft, the 1 mcf becomes 1.09 therms.

The major ingredient in natural gas is methane. Its heat of combustion is slightly below the 1000 btu/cu ft requirement. Hence, natural gas sold in interstate commerce normally contains traces of ethane or sometimes propane to meet energy minimums.

Natural gas as it comes from the well is a colorless, odorless gas. Impurities such as carbon dioxide, sulfides or sometimes nitrogen must be removed to make the gas marketable. Helium is commonly recovered from selected natural gas wells. An odorant, typically methyl mercaptan, a sulfur compound, is added to natural gas to make leaks detectable.

Most natural gas is sold by pipeline, but it can also be sold as a compressed gas (compressed natural gas, CNG) in heavy wall cylinders or liquified to LNG by strong cooling.

Natural Gas as a Motor Fuel

Abundant, low cost natural gas has many looking into opportunities as a motor fuel. Boone Pickens has proposed compressed natural gas as a motor fuel for heavy vehicles like trucks and buses. Tank size and weight make CNG less attractive for autos, where electric vehicles may prevail. But battery power limitations make natural gas attractive for heavier vehicles.

In 2013, General Electric announced a program to work with CSX on an LNG fueled locomotive. Kits that allow for duel fueled locomotives are already available.

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More detailed production maps including coalbed methane and shale gas plays found on the Department of Energy website.

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