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General facts

What is natural gas?
Natural gas is formed from anaerobic (oxygenless) decay of organic substances (plant and animal remnants). Under favourable conditions and the impact of various factors the hydrocarbons formed at different points of the earth crust move thus forming oil and gas concentrations referred to as deposits and fields. Natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbons (methane essentially), insignificant quantities of non-hydrocarbon components, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulphide and inert gases: helium, neon, and argon. Before being used as an energy source natural gas has to undergo a continuous processing phase where all its non-methane components are removed.

Natural gas can be compressed (under pressure of 200 - 220 bar), to be transported to locations which cannot be reached by an economically viable gas pipeline or to be stored. Longer distances (e.g. overseas destinations) necessitate natural gas to be transported in liquid state, the so-called LNG - liquefied natural gas (- 163 °C).

How is natural gas used?
Natural gas can be used for all kinds of applications, but is mostly employed for power generation. Several factors make natural gas one of the preferred energy sources for electricity production including the fact that it is a highly effective fuel and that it emits less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels such as coal. Natural gas is often used in the households for central heating, cooking, cooling and hot water. Furthermore, it is also utilized as a fuel for vehicles, where it is considered a "cleaner" alternative of the petrol and the diesel. At the same time, natural gas represents a keys element in the production of fertilizers and a crucial energy source for the fabrication of glass, steal, fabric, plastics, etc. Indeed, it is the only fuel that could be employed in the manufacturing process of these materials as it is the only energy source that can reach the extremely high temperatures that are required. Finally, natural gas is convenient as it is easy to light up and put out.

What is the difference between natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas?
The liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is produced during the processing of oil. It is composed of propane (60%) and butane (40%). It is not transported through pipelines, but instead is stored in container bottles under very high pressure (up to 22 bars). The LPG is heavier than the air and in case of leakages it falls low in the premises. In that regard, the natural gas is much safer for usage in a domestic environment than the LPG. The main application of the LPG is as a fuel in the transportation sector. It is also used occasionally for household purposes. The installation of LNG systems does not require permission, certification and follow-up monitoring of the exploitation, which could lead to serious incidents.

Why do we say that natural gas is an environment-friendly energy source?
Natural gas is ecological and clean energy source. Its usage does not cause the release of soot, unpleasant odors and dust in the air. Natural gas burns without releasing waste products that could cause acid rains. Furthermore, the burning of natural gas causes the release of much less carbon dioxide as oppose to the burning of other fossil fuels. Consequently the substitution of the traditional energy sources with natural gas leads to the diminution of the carbon emissions and improves the environment.

Why do we say that natural gas is efficient?
According to the Bulgarian Energy Efficiency Agency 90% of the projects for energy effectiveness are projects for gasification. The data emphasizes the leading role of natural gas in promoting energy efficiency of the Bulgarian economy. According to the specialists, the use of natural gas reduces substantially the energy costs within a very short time period.

Is it safe to use natural gas?
If used correctly, natural gas does not pose any danger. An incident could occur only in the cases of damaged equipment, inappropriate maintenance or if the members of the household do not observe the rules for safe exploitation of the installation. All these processes are strictly controlled by the law and by the contract arrangements with the gas distributor. In order to determine a leakage in a most rapid manner, natural gas has been aromatized preliminary so that it could be sensed in normal circumstances. Furthermore, for better protection one could install "gas alert". This device stops automatically the gas supply in the case leakage is detected.

For a natural gas-related explosion to occur, a significant amount of gas needs to be leaked in a closed premise, which must then react with a significant amount of oxygen. Finally there needs to be a spark to trigger the explosion. Obviously, this is a highly hypothetical situation. Indeed, natural gas is twice as light as the air, thus in case of a leakage the gas rises up and strives to "find" the smallest crack in order to escape. Consequently, a small leakage of natural gas in closed premise does not pose a risk.