That shiny new toaster or the fully automatic washing machine that you just bought for your home runs on electricity. Conventional sources of generating electricity like burning coal and diesel generators are very inefficient and contribute to global warming as well. Natural gas is much more energy efficient and is environmentally friendlier when compared to crude oil based fossil fuels and coal, and as such it is preferred for electricity generation. Green sources of electricity generation which are environmentally friendly exist – like hydroelectric generation, solar panels, wind energy and so forth. But they are not consistent sources of electricity and can do only so much to meet the rapidly growing energy needs of the world.
Natural gas when it is burned produces only a tiny fraction of NO2 and CO2 that is normally produced in large quantities when a fossil fuel or coal is burnt. In addition to this, the combustion of natural gas does not result in the production of particulate matter (soot) that is produced when other fossil fuels or coal is combusted making natural gas a “cleaner fuel”. However as the supplies of natural gas are limited (with it being a non-renewable source of energy), it serves as a great transition fuel, which can be used while alternative sources of energy are being developed.
Gas fired electricity plants are much easier to operate and maintain when compared to coal-fired electricity plants. Let us examine the ways in which natural gas is used in order to generate electricity.
The most rudimentary way in which this process happens is when there is a steam generation plant, in which the natural gas is combusted, in order to bring water to a boiling temperature, producing steam that is used to rotate a turbine that generates electricity. For this same process, coal is also used as well. These plants are not very energy efficient, with around 35% of the heat energy that goes into heating up the water being converted into electricity.
A much more efficient way of generating electricity from natural gas is to use a combined cycle unit. What this unit does is, it combines the gas type turbine as well as the steam based generation unit into one unit. In the gas type turbine, the gas produced from burning natural gas is directly used to turn a turbine and generate electricity. The heat generated from this process is also used to heat water up in the steam based generation unit, and that steam again turns another turbine to generate electricity. This unit is far more energy efficient, with around 60% percent of the heat energy generated getting converted into electrical energy.
With waste heat recovery techniques being developed by researchers, the efficiency of such units have been on the increase, all the way up to an astounding 80 percent, which is a huge improvement over traditional electricity generation methods. The natural gas industry is alive and is thriving abundantly and this makes your electrical appliances run smoothly and consistently.