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Environmental Issues
And
Going Green

By Alan J Hartley

New Sources Of Natural Gas.

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North Sea gas has not been in general use in the UK for very long having replaced the toxic Coal Gas only a few decades ago. Not only is Natural Gas a safer fuel, but it is also cleaner burning and more efficient. However, as a natural resource it is far more limited in reserves than Coal Gas, which is a by product of producing other, more specialist fuels such as Anthracite and Coke from the seemingly limitless reserves of coal that we have in the UK and World generally.

Coming from the North Sea, at first as a free bonus fuel in the production of North Sea oil, the Natural Gas was initially just flared off until it was decided it could be an economical fuel. Now considered a valuable fuel in its own right exploration is made to discover new sources of gas and as the price of all fuels keep going up other reserves are becoming economical to use. This is now proving to be the case with “Shale Gas” in North America, which was too expensive to use commercially when it was first recognised for what it was. It is still difficult and expensive to extract the gas from the deep layers of shale that are impregnated with it. However, with new technology and new methods constantly being developed there are now test-drilling sites round the world with one particular site of interest near Blackpool here in the U.K.

Other sources of gas that have been known about for years are also now proving to be more financially viable for commercial usage. A few decades ago old rubbish tips started to develop problems with Methane gas being produced as a natural process of decay in the layers of rubbish. At first the gas was often simply flared off, like North Sea Gas was, in an effort to prevent dangerous fires from starting, but it wasn’t long before the natural gas being released had started to be collected on some sites and in some instances was burned on site in a controlled way as a fuel for site offices and the like.  Now there are several small schemes being started to use such gas production as a fuel resource for local communities providing heat and power for things like village schools, community halls, old folks housing, etc. There will only ever be small quantities of gas produced from old tips in this manner, but with better organisation of waste disposal in the future such gas production may well prove to be a valuable resource.

The same Anaerobic decomposition of biological waste material in tips, that produces Methane, also occurs in Sewage treatment Plants. For some years, this gas source has been exploited in a minor way with it generally only being used for on site purposes such as being burnt to drive small power generators. More recently though, several large scale experimental trial sites have been set up that involved cleaning the gas of it’s smelly and toxic sulphide compounds, so that it could simply be piped into the national gas grid along with the existing North Sea Gas. Huge quantities of sewage are constantly treated day and night throughout the year, so if the experiment proves successful and economically viable it could prove be an everlasting source of natural gas that would go some way to supplying a reasonable portion of the demand for gas nationwide. 

Another potentially everlasting source of gas is by extracting it from other sources of “Bio Mass,” ie;- wood chips, elephant grass, straw, etc. With this source of carbon compounds, as against sewage, gas extraction is not so straightforward though, so it may eventually prove to be better to burn this in electricity power generation. Contrarily, burning household waste and dried sewage sludge is less efficient, because of high water content and high levels of general non combustible material, which means there is little fuel benefit from such processes making gas extraction the better option.

 

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Books By
Alan J Hartley