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Sources of Energy – Natural Gas, Petrochemicals and Alternative Sources

  • Last Updated : 01 Sep, 2021

Natural gas is mostly produced from deep underground petroleum reserves. Because gases are lighter than oil, it occurs immediately above the crude oil layer. It is created in the same way as petroleum is created. The remnants of plants and animals buried under the ground are converted into naturally occurring gas, as well as petroleum and coal, by high temperatures and pressure.

Any of a broad set of chemicals (as opposed to fuels) produced from petroleum and natural gas and utilised for a variety of commercial applications is referred to as a petrochemical. However, the term has been expanded to encompass all aliphatic, aromatic, and naphthenic organic compounds, as well as carbon black and inorganic elements such as sulphur and ammonia.

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Natural Gas 

Natural gas contains methane with traces of ethane and propane. Natural gas is also used as a starting material for the manufacturing of chemicals and fertilizers. India has vast reserves of natural gas in Tripura, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and in the Krishna Godavari delta.



Natural gas is classified as a fossil fuel. It is composed mostly of 95 percent hydrocarbon methane, with the remaining 5% consisting of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, helium, or hydrogen sulphide. It takes millions of years for it to come into existence.

When layers of rotting plants and animals are buried under the earth’s surface and exposed to extreme heat and pressure for millions of years, the gas is produced. Plants get their energy from the sun and store it in the gas in the form of chemical bonds. As a result, the creation of this gas takes place.

Properties of Natural Gas

  • Natural gas has a gaseous state of substance.
  • It is a colourless, tasteless gas. The gas has no odour. However, a chemical known as mercaptan is added to it in minute doses to give it an egg-like scent. This aids in the detection of any gas leaks.
  • It is toxic-free, produces no smoke when burned, and has a high calorific value. It’s both flammable gas and a fossil fuel. It has a high ignition temperature and a low flammability range. Therefore it is usually delivered by pipes.
  • It’s a combination of basic hydrocarbon molecules. It’s mostly methane, with traces of ethane, butane, pentane, and propane thrown in for good measure.
  • Water vapour and carbon dioxide are by-products of this gas.
  • Natural gas is 60 percent heavier than air.

Uses of Natural Gas

  1. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, natural gas was primarily employed for street and home illumination.
  2. It now has a wide range of applications in both residential and industrial settings.
  3. It is used to turn turbines for the generation of wind and solar energy.
  4. This fossil fuel is used to create ammonia, which is then used to create fertilisers.
  5. It’s also a household fuel. It heats our homes and runs heaters, ovens, boilers, and other appliances.
  6. Some families utilise compressed natural gas (CNG), which is gas held at a high pressure, for heating and cooking.
  7. CNG is also a cost-effective and environmentally friendly transportation fuel for low-load cars that require great fuel efficiency.
  8. LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas, is used to power vehicles like off-road trucks and trains.

Let’s discuss some about CNG and LPG as,

  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): When natural gas is compressed by applying pressure, it is called Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) which is a clean fuel. Natural gas is easy to transport through pipes and is stored under high pressure as CNG. CNG is used for power generation. It is now used as a fuel for transport vehicles because it is less polluting. The advantage of CNG is that it can be used directly for burning in homes and factories where it can be supplied through pipes.
  • Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG): It is a kind of liquefied petroleum gas. It’s a blend of light hydrocarbons like propane and butane, as well as a few other light petroleum products. It’s then turned into a liquid by exerting a lot of pressure. Its majority production occurs during the oil refining process. High-pressure cylinders are filled with this gas. Then there’s the fact that it’s simple and safe to carry and store. A little amount of mercaptans is added to it to detect any leaking from the inflated cylinders. This is due to the fact that it has a terrible odour.

Petrochemicals

They’re significant because they’re used to make a wide range of products, including detergents, synthetic fibres, plastics, synthetic rubber, medicines, dyes, fragrances, fertilisers, and pesticides. Natural gas is used to produce hydrogen gas as a petrochemical. It’s a component of fertiliser production. Petroleum is not only a source of fuel but also a raw material for the production of a wide range of valuable products. It is referred to as “black gold” because of its significance.

Petrochemicals are chemicals made from petroleum and natural gas. Methyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol, formaldehyde, acetone, acetic acid, ethylene, benzene, toluene, vinyl chloride, and so on are some examples.

Petrochemicals are chemical products made from petroleum, however many of the same chemical compounds may also be made from other fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, as well as renewable sources like corn, sugar cane, and other biomass. Multi-phase processing of oil and related petroleum gas is required for petrochemical synthesis. Products of petroleum oil refining are important raw materials in the petrochemical industry. Ethylene, propylene, and benzene are petrochemical products, as are source monomers for synthetic rubbers and technical carbon inputs. After various refining operations, petrochemical and petroleum products are the second-level goods generated from crude oil.



After a prolonged process of refinement in oil refineries, crude oil is used to make all petrochemical and petroleum components. Liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, fuel oil, lubricating oil, and paraffin wax are the primary hydrocarbon products generated by refining petroleum.

Energy Sources of Earth are Limited

We know that coal and petroleum are fossil fuels that take millions of years to regenerate, and with the pace, we are using these fuels, they will only last some hundred years. Moreover, the burning of these fuels is a major cause of air pollution. Their use is also linked to global warming. Thus, it is vital that we use these fuels only when absolutely necessary. This will result in a better environment, a smaller risk of global warming and their availability for a longer period of time. 

Thus, we should use fossil fuels when only necessary as,

  1. It will ensure that fossil fuels last for a longer period of time.
  2. It will reduce air pollution.
  3. It will also reduce Global Warming.

In India, the Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) advises people on how to save fuel while driving. Their tips are-

  1. Drive at a constant and moderate speed as far as possible.
  2. Switch off the engine at traffic lights or at a place where you have to wait.
  3. Ensure correct tyre pressure.
  4. Ensure regular maintenance of the vehicle.

We can also use alternative sources of energy like solar and wind energy which don’t generate much pollution. Use of CNG and natural gas is also encouraged as they are clean fuels and don’t cause much pollution. 

Alternative Sources of Energy

1. Wind Energy

The wind is a clean energy source. Wind farms are common in European countries especially the Netherlands. To harness electricity from wind energy, turbines or windmills are used to drive generators which then feed electricity into the National Grid. The Netherlands is famous for its large wind farms. India has a target to generate 60GW wind energy by 2022. In areas that are very windy, windmills are erected. A windmill consists of a fan-like structure on strong standing support at a considerable height.

The strong wind moves the wings of the windmill which turns the turbines of the electric generator. The mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy. The output of a single windmill is quite less so, it’s important to have many windmills, preferably in a wind farm with a consistent wind of 15 kmph.

Advantages of Wind Energy

  1. It is environmentally friendly and a renewable source of energy.
  2. Installation cost is more but the maintenance cost is quite low.

Disadvantages of Wind Energy



  1. The initial cost of setting up is high.
  2. A large open area is required.
  3. Can’t be established everywhere because of the minimum wind speed requirement.

2. Solar Energy

Sunlight is the earth’s most abundant and freely available energy resource. The amount of solar energy that reaches the earth’s surface in one hour is more than the earth’s total energy requirements for a whole year. Sun’s heat which falls on the earth can be harnessed for various heating and lighting purposes. We can trap solar energy for future use with the help of installing solar panels on the top of buildings. A black surface absorbs more heat than a white surface. This property is used in solar cookers, solar water heaters and solar cells.

Advantages of Solar Energy

  1. Renewable source of energy
  2. Environment friendly
  3. Easy to install and maintain

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

It can’t be used in areas where sunlight is not present in ample quantities or on rainy days.

3. Tidal Energy

It is a type of hydro energy that uses twice-daily tidal currents to drive turbine generators. Although tidal flow unlike some other hydro energy sources isn’t constant, it is highly predictable and can compensate for the periods when the tide current is low. Generally, dams are constructed towards narrow openings of the sea. When there is a high tide, the increase in water in the sea is stored in the dam. The estuary has a lower level of water. Water flows from the sea to the estuary and the turbine rotates. When there is a low tide, the estuary has a higher level of water. Water flows from the estuary to the sea and the turbine rotates. As the turbine rotates, electricity is generated.

Advantages of Tidal Energy

  1. More reliable than solar and wind energy
  2. It is renewable and operating cost is low.

Disadvantages of Tidal Energy

  1. High installation cost
  2. Limited power generation as tides only happens twice a day.
  3. Not environment friendly as dam construction may result in displacement of the ecosystem.

4. Geothermal Energy



By harnessing the natural heat below the earth’s surface, geothermal energy can be used to heat homes directly or to generate electricity.

5. Biomass Energy

It is the conversion of solid fuel made from plant materials into electricity. Biomass involves burning organic materials to produce electricity. By converting waste into solid, liquid and gas fuel, biomass generates power at a much lower economic and environmental cost. It is also called gobar-gas.

6. Biogas Plant

It consists of the following-

  1. Mixing tank: Cow dung and water is mixed to form a slurry which is fed into the mixing tank.
  2. Digester: Slurry is passed on to the digester (completely sealed chamber with no oxygen). Here anaerobic decomposition of slurry takes place.
  3. Gas tank: The anaerobic decomposition releases gases such as methane, carbon-di-oxide, hydrogen and hydrogen sulphide which are collected in the Gas tank and drawn out through the gas outlet.

Advantages of Biogas Plant

  1. It is readily available because of the large population of India.
  2. Doesn’t cause pollution.
  3. Burns without smoke.
  4. Doesn’t leave a residue.
  5. Environment friendly.

Disadvantages of Biogas Plant

  1. Less heating efficiency.
  2. Release gases that corrode the plant metals.
  3. Difficult to construct.

Sample Problems

Problem 1: What are inexhaustible and exhaustible natural resources?

Solution: 

Resources that are present in unlimited quantity in nature and are not likely to be exhausted by human activities are called inexhaustible natural resources. Examples are: sunlight, air.



Exhaustible Natural Resources are those resources whose amount in nature is limited. They can be exhausted by human activities. Examples of these resources are forests, wildlife, minerals, coal, petroleum, natural gas etc.

Problem 2: What is CNG? What are its advantages?

Solution: 

When natural gas is compressed by applying pressure, it is called Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) which is a clean fuel. Natural gas is easy to transport through pipes and is stored under high pressure as CNG. CNG is used for power generation. It is now used as a fuel for transport vehicles because it is less polluting. The advantage of CNG is that it can be used directly for burning in homes and factories where it can be supplied through pipes.

Problem 3: What are petrochemicals? Why are they important?

Solution: 

Chemicals which are obtained from petroleum and natural gases are called petrochemicals. E.g. methyl alcohol, vinyl chloride etc. They are important as they are used to manufacture vast variety of fast moving consumer goods like detergents, synthetic fibres, plastic, rubber etc. Hydrogen gas is also obtained as petrochemical from natural gas and is used in manufacturing fertilizers. 

Problem 4: Are energy sources of the Earth limited?

Solution: 

As coal and petroleum take millions of year to regenerate, and with the pace we are using these fuels, they will only last some hundred years. Moreover, burning of these fuels is a major cause of air pollution. Their use is also linked to global warming. Thus, it is vital that we use these fuels only when absolutely necessary. This will result in better environment, smaller risk of global warming and their availability for a longer period of time. 

Problem 5: What are the guidelines by PCRA while driving to save fuels?

Solution:  

The guidelines are as follows-

  1. Drive at a constant and moderate speed as far as possible.
  2. Switch off the engine at traffic lights or at a place where you have to wait.
  3. Ensure correct tyre pressure.
  4. Ensure regular maintenance of the vehicle.

Problem 6: What are alternative sources of energy?

Solution: 

Energy sources which are renewable and are present in infinite amount in our earth, and which can be used to produce clean energy without putting much pressure on earth’s finite energy sources are called alternative sources of energy. For example- solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and biomass energy. 




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