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Natural gas is an efficient, versatile, and clean-burning fuel that has a multitude of industrial uses in a broad range of sectors. With advanced development and exploration technologies, the application of natural gas is evolving rapidly.
The landscape of these secure, plentiful, and low-cost sources of this cleanest fuel is changing the energy policy and moving markets around the world. In fact, the industrial field is the largest consumer of natural gas, accounting for 30 percent use across all sectors. Natural gas is mostly used as a source of both heat and energy, which account for the tremendous electricity requirements of this sector. It is the second most used source, trailing only electricity.
Although the industrial sector accounts for the larger percentage of natural gas consumption, the consumption is concentrated in a relatively small number of industrial areas. The gas is primarily used in the chemicals, pulp and paper, petroleum refining, plastic, cement, tiles, ceramics, clay and glass, stone, metals, and food processing industries.
Many industrial processes require heat to dry, glaze, bake, or melt a product. In addition, natural gas is used at many industrial facilities for incineration, fueling industrial boilers for steam needs and operating a combined heat and power (CHP) facility. It also provides the base ingredients for varied products such as fertilizer, plastic, fabrics, and anti-freeze.
Natural gas can also be used as a feedstock for the manufacturing of a variety of products and chemicals. Gases such as propane, ethane, and butane, may be extracted from natural gas to as a feedstock. Natural gas may be used to produce methanol, in a process that involves mixing carbon oxides and hydrogen through steam reforming.
The gas is exposed to a catalyst that causes its oxidation when it encounters steam. The methanol produced may be used to produce substances such as acetic acid, MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) and formaldehyde and could be used for the production of fuel in fuel cells.
Natural gas is odorless, colorless, and highly flammable. It can be dangerous since it causes explosions and fires that result in injuries and deaths. Therefore, in industries using natural gas for energy and heating, being careful and cautious must be the order of the day. Any simple mistake could be fatal. Here are safety tips that must be applied:
Relief valves: Normally, a relief valve on the storage cylinder allows for the release of gas in a manner that prevents explosion when the cylinder is over pressurized. When the valve or cylinder is not maintained and a rapid pressure build-up occurs due to exposure to extreme temperatures can result in cylinder failure and an explosion. The stored gas should be placed out of direct sunlight or any source of heat.
In addition, some space must be left in the cylinders to accommodate contraction and expansion caused by normal heating and cooling. The relief valve and cylinders should be inspected regularly to make sure they are not damaged. When a hazardous equipment failure occurs in the system or a gas leak is detected, the supply should be turned off and a trained technician should do the repairs.
Supply hoses: Natural gas hoses must be labeled differently from other supply hoses. The contract may be by either surface characteristics or colors that are easily distinguishable. Natural gas hoses must not be interchangeable with the other supply hoses and this involves avoiding hoses that have more than one passage.
All natural gas hoses must be inspected at the beginning of each work shift. Those that show signs of wear, damage, leaks, burns, or defects must be tested and those in doubtful conditions must not be repaired or replaced.
Ventilation: In addition to the obvious dangers of explosion presented by natural gas, asphyxiation is also a worrying threat. Although the gas is non-toxic, it tends to displace oxygen and can cause suffocation if there is no adequate ventilation.
Most of the deaths related to natural gas every year are mostly because of asphyxiation. Therefore, industries using natural gas must ensure that gas detectors are installed and there is enough ventilation within the facility to prevent employee suffocation.
Human error in natural gas use can lead to disastrous implication and damage of millions of dollars’ worth of property. Employees who work in industries where natural gas is used should be well educated on the safety measures to employ when working around it. If you’re an employer interested in expanding the knowledge base of your employees and making your workplace a safe place for everyone, consider enrolling them in the NTT Inc. Natural Gas Maintenance & Safety Seminar. For more information, please contact us today.
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