Gas Happens

Gas Happens

I’ve wanted to say this for a long time.  For those of you who know me, you’ve probably heard me say this more than once.  We need to change the way we think of Natural Gas.

Natural Gas is a Renewable Resource.

Natural Gas (Methane, CH4) is a byproduct of organic decomposition. Period. We have been taught that natural gas is a fossil fuel. That implies that it is coming from those decomposed dinosaurs that have been marinating in our soil for bazillions of years. And it is true – we have gotten a lot of gas from that source, but there are lots of other sources.

Today, we are tapping gas off of landfills, we are running wastewater treatment facilities off of the gas that the facility generates, and we are running farms off of cow poo.  Methane seems to be everywhere!  This is not new news, but we need to associate the fossil fuel with the bio fuel and group these into one awesome renewable resource.

Did you know that in India small farms have their own bio dome to put their animal and plant waste into and it generates enough methane to meet the needs of the home? It’s fascinating, though I’m sure my homeowner’s association would have fits if I tried putting one in my urban yard!  I’ve listed references on some of the India articles at the end of the document.

When I was a little girl, we lived in Florida on the edge of the swamp.  Take a step into a good mucky bit of swamp water and what do you get – nice big bubbles of swamp gas – aka Methane!    I don’t think we are close to replacing our drilling mindset but I do think that we should begin to look at where all of this gas comes from and how use it efficiently rather than letting so much of it dissipate into the atmosphere.

The forecasts for how many years of natural gas have been interesting to watch.  20 years ago, it was believed we had 175 TCF (Trillion Cubic Feet) of reserves in the ground.  Today that number is close to 350 TCF. I’ve heard that the reason that our forecasted reserves has grown so much is because of a) new discoveries and b) new technology that lets us produce more gas. But I think there is one more reason that our reserves are increasing and that is because our earth is still producing more Methane.

We need to harvest biogas as Natural Gas and create a mechanism to feed excess biogas back into the mainstream of gas distribution. Methane comes from our cows, from our decomposing pumpkins, from our wastewater treatment facilities, from our worm beds.  All of these sources of biogas are just as valuable as our dinosaurs, and I believe that we can find cheaper and easier ways to get the Methane we need through renewables that are here on the surface.

We admit that we are greedy consumers.  Can gas field production keep up with our new desires to use clean Natural Gas as the solution for all of our environmental woes?  I don’t think that is the right approach.  The right approach is to explore the additional sources of natural gas and create ways to inject those sources into the mainstream of consumption.

References:
Tal Lee Anderman, Of Cow Dung, Cook Stoves and Sustainability in Practice, http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2013/05/15/of-cow-dung-cook-stoves-and-sustainability-in-practice/
R N Bhaskar, Policy Watch: Nov 10, 2014, http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-policy-watch-oh-shit-a-rs-150617-crore-business-2033671
Jo Lawbuary, HES, Biogas Technology in India: More than Gandhi's Dream?; https://www.ganesha.co.uk/Articles/Biogas%20Technology%20in%20India.htm

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves

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