Natural gas is one of the most versatile energy forms. Due to its ability to burn efficiently and cleanly, natural gas is an ideal energy source for home use. The abundance and heat output of natural gas also makes it useful for larger commercial applications such as electric generation, while the safety of natural gas makes it the most popular choice for residential heating in areas of the country where natural gas is currently available. Though natural gas was originally burned off as a byproduct of oil drilling, it is now used in an almost endless number of ways.
One of the first successful uses of natural gas in the Unites States was for lighting. Both streets and residential homes used natural gas lighting before electricity became widely available. While natural gas lighting still exists, it is no longer commonly used. However, natural gas does have a number of uses in a home. Natural gas commonly powers water heaters, clothes dryers, stoves, furnaces and space heaters. Natural gas is also used in grills and other outdoor cooking devices. Manufacturers continue to make freezers, refrigerators and air conditioning systems that run off of natural gas. If the cost difference between electric and natural gas continues to grow, the popularity of these appliances may begin to grow as well.
Liquefied natural gas or LNG, a liquid fuel made from natural gas, is already powering fleets of commercial vehicles in many areas of the United States. From passenger cars to school busses, LNG is a practical fuel for replacing the more polluting traditional fuels of gasoline and diesel. While LNG vehicles are available on the consumer market, they are not yet selling in large numbers due to the relatively small network of gas stations currently selling LNG. As the number of retailers selling LNG continues to grow, so will the sales of LNG powered cars and trucks.
Natural gas can be used in almost every situation where coal or petroleum oil is currently used. From turning electric generating turbines to firing the furnaces used to melt iron or other metals. In fact, due to the lower cost of natural gas and the lower levels of emissions, natural gas is a better choice than either coal or oil for manufacturing purposes. Cleaner burning natural gas not only is less polluting to the environment, it use will also keep manufacturing facilities cleaner and reduce workers exposure to respiratory irritants.
In addition to being used to fire furnaces and power machines, natural gas is also used as a base product. For example, natural gas can be used to produce methanol which is the used in gasoline, fuel cells and other products. Natural gas can also be converted into a desiccant which is used to remove moisture from the air during certain manufacturing processes where moisture may damage the finished product.
While practical technology does not yet exist, many companies around the world are working on using natural gas to power airplanes, railroads and other non-traditional uses. The push for stricter emissions regulations and the low cost of natural gas compared to other fuels will continue to drive governments and industry to find new uses for natural gas and liquefied natural gas.
Sam Jones the author of this article is often asked where people should go to secure the best gas prices. He recommends the uSwitch price comparison website where all of the main suppliers can be compared at the touch of a button
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