The principal use of natural gas is energy utilization for the generation of electricity, steam and heating through combustion. As such, natural gas is an alternative raw material to fuels such as coal, renewable energies, petroleum products, etc.

An additional use is the chemical processing of the main component of natural gas – methane –with additional materials for the production other compounds. The main chemical process of these is the production of synthetic gas (gasification), followed by the Fischer-Tropsch process which converts synthetic gas to other products through a number of variables (pressure, catalysts, temperature). Among the products that can be produced using this process are methanol, ammonia, urea, hydrogen, dimethyl ether, synthetic fuels such as gasoline and diesel using gas to liquid (GTL) and more. Manufacturing these products in an economically efficient manner requires extensive energy production infrastructure and a significant degree of reactions. An industry of this kind is likely be mostly export-oriented.

The second use of natural gas not for combustion purposes is its conversion to a different state of matter/pressure, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG). These are mostly physical conversion processes that do not change the composition of natural gas, i.e. methane.

To characterize an industrial process as a chemical process that creates a new material from natural gas requires a broad enough definition but one that excludes combustion uses and physical conversions. A proposed definition is as follows:

A chemical change of a molecule of methane from natural gas, to a different compound or compounds, not through oxidation.



Gina Cohen
Natural Gas Expert