Thursday, March 3, 2016

How Do We Store Natural Gas?

Natural gas consumption usually rises and falls with the seasons. In the winter months, we historically have used a lot more natural gas for heating. We are trending towards using natural gas for electricity, in addition to heat. Therefore, we are using more and more natural gas year round. Spikes in the summer are becoming more common than ever now that natural gas is being used for cooling our homes and businesses. The high demand for clean burning, energy efficient natural gas demands that we constantly extract, process and transport natural gas to the areas that need it most. We also must store excess gas so that it is ready for use. We store certain amounts based on projected consumption and we store excess amounts that will ensure that the supply equals or exceeds the demand when natural gas needs spike higher than expected.

We used to mainly consume coal gas. Coal gas was stored in gasometers starting in the mid-eighteenth century. These were large, above-ground tanks that slowly sunk into the ground as the gas stores were depleted. Coal gas was used mainly in towns for lighting, heating and sometimes cooking. Coal gas quickly became widely referred to as town gas. Once large natural gas fields were discovered in the late twentieth century, we ultimately stopped using coal gas. Natural gas is far safer and cheaper than coal gas ever was.

We extract natural gas from the natural gas fields and transport it via pipeline to where it is needed. Natural gas in a gaseous state can take up a lot of room. Therefore, we cool it to a temperature that puts it into a liquid state. Old aquifers are designed to hold liquid and are a great underground option for storing liquid natural gas. Natural gas is too flammable to store above ground in tanks where it can be exposed to heat, so underground options are preferable.

Natural gas can also be stored in old salt mines or old gas reservoirs. Gas reservoirs are underground and are composed of porous rock. This rock held natural gas at one time and makes a well-suited location for storing natural gas. We usually store natural gas in gas reservoirs that we expect to use within about a year's time. It can be time consuming to extract the gas that we need from gas reservoirs, so other methods are used for gas demands that are unexpected.

We store natural gas in aquifers and salt mines for unexpected needs. These locations offer a quick retrieval of natural gas when we have a sudden demand. The reserve of gas in an aquifer or salt mine usually only lasts a few days or weeks. Companies like Triple Diamond Energy provide us with the natural gas that we need year round.