From the ground to your home – how we get and use natural gas

Over the years natural gas has proven to be a more convenient and reliable energy source than other sources. It’s cheaper, more versatile and more environmentally friendly so it comes as no surprise that many people opt to use natural gas in their homes rather than energy from coal or nuclear plants. But how exactly do they get it from the natural reserve into your home?

Finding and experimental drilling

Geologists will identify areas that potentially hold natural gas or oil reserves. Seismic exploration takes place to confirm the possibility. Seismic waves are sent into the ground and the time it takes for them to come back to the surface allows scientists to create an image of the ground layers and possible deposits under the earth’s surface. 2, 3 and 4D images can be constructed but this is not an exact science and various factors can influence the interpretation of data and even lead to completely inaccurate interpretations. For this reason exploration drilling needs to take place.

In exploration drilling scientists and engineers drill into the earth at the identified potential oil or gas source. The drilling will confirm the type and layers of ground they are dealing with and it will also confirm the presence of oil or gas. It can also provide more information as to the size of the oil or gas field. The exact nature of the oil or gas field will determine the next steps.

Extracting gas

Once a natural gas well has been drilled and the presence of a profitable field has been confirmed natural gas extraction can commence. If oil is found the gas, that is a by product, can also be collected if it is feasible to do so. The types of natural gas will determine exactly how drilling and extraction takes place as some types are more difficult to extract than others. Conventional natural gas is relatively easy to access and a simple well can be enough to extract the gas. Coalbed methane, sour gas, tight gas, and shale gas and unconventional and may need processes like fracking to complete the natural gas extraction.

Processing gas and transportation

Once gas is extracted natural gas processing needs to take place before it is truly usable. The processing of natural gas is a complicated multi-step process that removes the impurities as the raw natural gas that is extracted is not the gas we use in our homes. The finished product is ethane, propane, butane and pentane. Other elements like water, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide has been removed. This clean gas is pressurized and fed into pipelines that serve the consumer. If the gas cannot be transported in pipelines over land it can be liquefied for international transport. In its liquid form it takes up less space so international transportation is easier. The gas can be stored for later use in this form. Once it reaches its destination or the stored gas needs to be used regasification takes place and it is also pressurized and fed into pipe lines that lead to the consumer.

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