Although natural gas as a whole is used for things like the generation of electricity and heating, its chemical components are often extracted for use in various industries too. According to Prashant Modi, the chemical methanol, which is a derivative of the methane found in natural gas, is a hugely important chemical used to produce a whole range of industrial products, including vinyl, plastics, acetic acid, formaldehyde and fuel additive. Using a conversion process, methanol can be converted into both propylene and ethylene; these two chemicals can also be produced using the other gaseous compounds found in natural gas. These two compounds are then used in many different ways; they’re converted into foams, plastics, textile fibres, packaging materials, automotive components, paints, anti-freeze, resins and PVC plastics.
More than 98% of the synthetically produced fertilizer in the world is produced using ammonia, which is derived from natural gas. This process requires high pressures and temperatures, and therefore needs to be made using a cheap source of energy so as to be economically viable. Prashant Modi says that natural gas, being one of the cheapest fossil fuels, is ideal for providing both the feedstock and the energy for this process.
The single largest consumer of industrial energy is the steel industry, taking up approximately 5% of the world’s entire energy production. Steel manufacturers use the methane derived from nature gas as part of their steel production methods, by reacting methane and ore. As with fertilizer production, natural gas is the obvious choice, from an economical standpoint, as the main source of energy and feedstock.
One newer area where natural gas is being put to use is in the transport industry. Although the benefits of using natural gas as a transport fuel are quite well understood now, Prashant Modi says that growth in this area has been relatively slow to materialise. However, many environmentalists are eager for this gas to be used for fleets of trucks and cargo vehicles, as some studies have indicated that when compared with diesel and gasoline, natural gas can reduce the output of carbon dioxide by up to twenty five percent. It has also been shown to significantly cut down on the emission of nitrous oxide, as well as particulates and non-hydrocarbons.