Compressed natural gas (CNG) is a fossil fuel substitute for petrol, diesel, or LPG. Although its combustion does produce greenhouse gases, it is a more environmentally clean alternative to those fuels, and it is much safer than other fuels in the event of a spill (natural gas is lighter than air, and disperses quickly when released). CNG may also be mixed with biogas, produced from landfills or wastewater, which doesn’t increase the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere.
CNG or Compressed Natural Gas is the compressed form of the gas commonly used in homes throughout Australia for domestic cooking and heating appliances. CNG is made by compressing natural gas (which is mainly composed of methane [CH4]), to less than 1% of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure. It is stored and distributed in hard containers at a pressure of 200–248 bar (2900–3600 psi), usually in cylindrical or spherical shapes. It consists mainly of methane (80 – 95%), a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas. The distinctive smell associated with natural gas is in fact an additive which enables quick detection of leaking gas. Methane is the lightest hydrocarbon having a chemical composition of CH4 and occurs naturally throughout the solar system and universe. Natural gas is not the same as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) which is made up of a variety of heavy petroleum derived gases, mainly Propane and Butane.
CNG is used in traditional internal combustion engine cars that have been converted into bi-fuel vehicles (Petrol/CNG). Natural gas vehicles are increasingly used in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, Europe, and America due to rising gasoline prices. CNG’s volumetric energy density is estimated to be 42% of LNG’s (because it is not liquefied), and 25% of diesel’s.
Historically natural gas was manufactured by collecting gas produced by burning coal (“Town gas”). Today natural gas is extracted from underground and subsea deposits often but not always associated with oil and coal deposits. Australia holds very large reserves of natural gas deposits which are expected to meet our energy requirements for hundreds of years to come. Australia exports thousands of tonnes of natural gas to Asia on a daily basis in the form of LNG (Liquid Natural Gas)
A major source of methane around the world is to date largely unharnessed. Instead it is allowed to leak in its raw form into the atmosphere. Methane is a by-product of decomposing organic matter including the rotting of dead plants, the rotting of garbage in tips and dumps, and also livestock manure and sewage treatment plants. This is known as biogas and is likely to be harnessed to a much greater extent in the future. Natural gas is consequently a renewable source of fuel.
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