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IV. What is the natural gas used for in industry?



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IV. What is the natural gas used for in industry?

Uses In Industry

Natural gas has a multitude of industrial uses, including pro­viding the base ingredients for such varied products as plastic, fer­tilizer, anti-freeze, and fabrics. In fact, industry is the largest con­sumer of natural gas, accounting for 43 percent of natural gas use across all sectors. Natural gas is the second most used energy source in industry, trailing only electricity.

Industrial applications for natural gas are many, including the same uses found in residential and commercial settings - heating, cooling, and cooking. Natural gas is also used for waste treatment and incineration, metals preheating (particularly for iron and steel), drying and dehumidification, glass melting, food processing, and fueling industrial boilers. Gases such as butane, ethane, and pro­pane may be extracted from natural gas to be used as a feedstock for such products as fertilizers and pharmaceutical products.

Natural gas is converted to what is known as synthesis gas, which is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon oxides formed through a process known as steam reforming. In this process, natural gas is exposed to a catalyst that causes oxidization of the natural gas when brought into contact with steam. This synthesis gas, once formed, may be used to produce methanol (or Methyl Alcohol), which in turn is used to produce such substances as formaldehyde, acetic acid, and MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) that is used as an additive for cleaner burning gasoline. Methanol may also be used as a fuel source in fuel cells.

In addition to these uses, there are a number of innovative and industry specific uses of natural gas. Natural gas desiccant systems, which are used for dehumidification, are increasingly popular in the plastics, pharmaceutical, candy, and even recycling industries. Adding a natural gas desiccant system to the manufacturing or dry­ing environment allows industrial users to regulate more closely the amount of moisture in the air, leading to a more consistent and high-quality product.

Natural gas absorption systems are also being used extensively in industry to heat and cool water in an efficient, economical, and environmentally sound way. These industrial absorption systems are very similar to those used in commercial settings. [10]

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