Alternatives: PART 1 & # 8212; Gas industry

Alternatives: PART 1 & # 8212; Gas industry

In the 70s, Wilhelm Maybach experimented with various designs of internal combustion engines, changed mechanisms and thought about the most suitable alloys for the production of individual parts. He often wonders which of the then known combustible substances would be most suitable for use in heat engines.

In the 70s, Wilhelm Maybach experimented with various designs of internal combustion engines, changed mechanisms and thought about the most suitable alloys for the production of individual parts. He often wonders which of the then known combustible substances would be most suitable for use in heat engines.

In 1875, when he was an employee of Gasmotorenfabrik Deutz, Wilhelm Maybach decided to test whether he could start a gas engine using liquid fuel - more precisely, gasoline. It occurred to him to check what would happen if he turned off the gas tap and instead put a piece of cloth soaked in gasoline in front of the intake manifold. The engine does not stop, but continues to run until it "sucks" all the liquid from the tissue. So the idea of ​​the first improvised "carburetor" was born, and after the creation of the car, gasoline became the main fuel for it.

I am telling this story to remind you that before gasoline appeared as an alternative to fuel, the first engines used gas as fuel. Then it was about the use of (lighting) gas for lighting, obtained by methods not known today, but by processing coal. The engine, invented by the Swiss Isaac de Rivak, the first "naturally aspirated" (uncompressed) industrial-grade Ethylene Lenoir engine since 1862, and the classic four-stroke unit created by Otto a little later, run on gas.

The difference between natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas should be mentioned here. Natural gas contains 70 to 98% methane, and the rest is higher organic and inorganic gases such as ethane, propane and butane, carbon monoxide and others. Oil also contains gases in varying proportions, but these gases are recovered by fractional distillation or produced by some side process in refineries. Gas fields are very different - clean gas or "dry" (that is, containing mostly methane) and "wet" (containing methane, ethane, propane, some other heavier gases and even "gasoline" - a light liquid. very valuable fractions). The types of oils are also different, and the concentration of gases in them can be either lower or higher. Fields are often combined - gas rises above oil and acts as a "gas cap". The composition of the "cap" and the main oil field includes the substances mentioned above, and the various fractions, figuratively speaking, "flow" into each other. The methane used as a vehicle fuel "comes" from natural gas, while the propane-butane mixture we know comes from both natural gas and oil fields. About 6% of the world's natural gas comes from coal deposits, which are often accompanied by gas deposits.

Propane-butane appears on the scene in a somewhat paradoxical way. In 1911, an outraged American client of an oil company instructed his friend, the famous chemist Dr. Snelling, to find out the reasons for the mysterious event. The reason for the customer’s indignation is that the customer is surprised to find out that half of the filling station’s tank has just been filled. Ford She disappeared by unknown means during a short trip to his home. The tank does not leak out of nowhere ... After many experiments, Dr. Snelling discovered that the reason for the mystery was the high content of propane and butane gases in the fuel, and soon after that he developed the first practical methods of distilling them. It is because of these fundamental advances that Dr. Snelling is now considered the "father" of the industry.

Much earlier, about 3000 years ago, shepherds discovered a "flaming spring" on Mount Paranas in Greece. Later, a temple with flaming columns was built on this "sacred" place, and the oracle Delphius recited his prayers in front of the majestic colossus, causing people to feel a sense of reconciliation, fear and admiration. Today, some of that romance is lost because we know that the source of the flame is methane (CH4) flowing from cracks in rocks associated with the depths of the gas fields. There are similar fires in many places in Iraq, Iran and Azerbaijan off the coast of the Caspian Sea, which have also been burning for centuries and have long been known as the "Eternal Flames of Persia."

Over the years, the Chinese also used field gases, but with a very pragmatic purpose - to heat large boilers with seawater and extract salt from it. In 1785, the British created a method for producing methane from coal (it was he who was used in the first internal combustion engines), and at the beginning of the twentieth century, German chemists Kekulé and Stradonitz patented a process for the production of a heavier liquid fuel from it.

In 1881 in the American city of Fredonia, William Hart drilled the first gas well. Hart watched for a long time as the bubbles rise to the surface of the water in a nearby cove, and decided to dig a hole from the ground to the alleged gas field. At a depth of nine meters below the surface, he reached a vein from which gas poured, which he later trapped, and his newly formed Fredonia Gas Light Company became a pioneer in the gas business. However, despite Hart's breakthrough, the lighting gas used in the XNUMXth century was mainly mined from coal by the above method - mainly due to the lack of potential for the development of technologies for transporting natural gas from the fields.

However, the first commercial oil production was already a fact. Their story began in the United States in 1859, and the idea was to use the extracted oil to distill kerosene for lighting and oils for steam engines. Even then, people were faced with the destructive power of natural gas, compressed for thousands of years in the bowels of the earth. The pioneers of Edwin Drake's group nearly died during the first impromptu drilling near Titusville, Pennsylvania, after a gas leak from a breach broke out and a huge fire broke out, which carried away all the equipment. Today, the exploitation of oil and gas fields is accompanied by a system of special measures to block the free flow of combustible gas, but fires and explosions are not uncommon. However, in many cases this same gas is used as a kind of "pump" that pushes oil to the surface, and when its pressure drops, oilmen begin to look for and use other methods to extract "black gold".

The world of hydrocarbon gases

In 1885, four years after William Hart's first gas drilling, another American, Robert Bunsen, invented what would later become known as the "Bunsen burner". The invention serves for metering and mixing gas and air in a suitable proportion, which can then be used for safe combustion - it is this burner that today is the basis of modern oxygen nozzles for furnaces and heating appliances. Bunsen's invention opened up new possibilities for the use of natural gas, but although the first gas pipeline was built in 1891, blue fuel did not acquire industrial importance until World War II.

It was during the war that sufficiently reliable cutting and welding methods were created, which made it possible to build safe metal gas pipelines. Thousands of kilometers of these were built in America after the war, and the pipeline from Libya to Italy was built in the 60s. Large natural gas fields have also been discovered in the Netherlands. These two facts explain the existence of a better infrastructure for using compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as vehicle fuels in these two countries. The enormous strategic importance that natural gas is beginning to acquire is confirmed by the following fact - when Reagan decided to destroy the "Evil Empire" in the 80s, he vetoed the supply of high-tech equipment for the construction of a gas pipeline from the USSR to Europe. To compensate for European needs, the construction of a gas pipeline from the Norwegian sector of the North Sea to mainland Europe is accelerating, and the USSR is hanging. At the time, gas exports were the main source of hard currency for the Soviet Union, and acute shortages resulting from the Reagan measures soon led to well-known historical events in the early 90s.

Today, democratic Russia is a major supplier of natural gas for Germany's energy needs and a major global player in this area. Natural gas began to grow in importance after two oil crises in the 70s, and today it is one of the main energy resources of geostrategic importance. Currently, natural gas is the cheapest fuel for heating, it is used as a raw material in the chemical industry, for power generation, for household appliances, and its “cousin” - propane can be found even in bottles with deodorant as a deodorant. substitute for ozone-depleting fluorine compounds. Natural gas consumption is constantly growing and the gas pipeline network is getting longer. As for the infrastructure built so far to use this fuel in cars, everything is far behind.

We have already told you about the strange decisions that the Japanese made in the production of much-needed and scarce fuel during World War II, and also mentioned the program for the production of synthetic gasoline in Germany. However, little is known about the fact that in the meager war years in Germany there were quite real cars running on ... wood! In this case, this is not a return to the good old steam engine, but internal combustion engines, originally designed to run on gasoline. In fact, the idea is not very complicated, but it requires a cumbersome, heavy and dangerous gas generator system. Coal, charcoal or just wood is placed in a special and not very complex power plant. At its bottom, they burn in the absence of oxygen, and in conditions of high temperature and humidity, a gas containing carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane is released. It is then cooled, cleaned and blown into the engine intake manifolds by a fan for use as fuel. Of course, the drivers of these cars performed complex and difficult functions of firefighters - the boiler had to be periodically charged and cleaned, and the smoking machines really looked a little like steam locomotives.

Exploration for gas reservoirs today requires some of the world's most complex technologies, and the production of natural gas and oil is one of the greatest challenges facing science and technology. This fact is especially relevant in the United States, where more and more unconventional methods are used to "suck" gas left over from old or abandoned fields, as well as to extract the so-called "dense" gas. Scientists estimate that it will now take twice as much drilling to produce gas at the technology level of 1985. The efficiency of the methods has been significantly increased and the weight of the equipment has been reduced by 75%. Increasingly sophisticated computer programs are used to analyze data from gravimeters, seismic technologies and laser satellites, on the basis of which computer three-dimensional maps of deposits in reservoirs are created. Also, so-called 4D images were created, thanks to which it is possible to visualize the shape and movement of sediments over time. However, the most advanced facilities remain for offshore natural gas production - only a fraction of human progress in this area are global positioning systems for drilling, ultra-deep drilling, pipelines on the ocean floor and liquefied gap systems. carbon monoxide and sand.

Refining oil to produce high quality gasolines is a much more complex task than refining gases. On the other hand, the transportation of gas by sea is much more expensive and complicated. Liquefied petroleum gas tankers are quite complex in design, but LNG carriers are a stunning creation. Butane liquefies at -2 degrees and propane liquefies at -42 degrees, or at relatively low pressure. However, methane liquefaction requires -165 degrees! Consequently, for the construction of LPG tankers, simpler compressor stations are required than for natural gas and tanks, which are designed to withstand a not particularly high pressure of 20-25 bar. In contrast, LNG carriers are equipped with continuous refrigeration systems and super-insulated tanks - in fact, these colossus are the world's largest cryogenic refrigerators. However, part of the gas has time to "escape" from these installations, but another system immediately catches it and feeds it into the cylinders of the ship's engines.

For the reasons indicated above, it is quite clear that already in 1927 the technology made it possible to withstand the first propane-butane tanks. This is the work of the Dutch-English Shell, which at that time was already a giant company. Her boss, Kessler, is an advanced person and experimenter who has long dreamed of using some way of the enormous amount of gas that has still leaked into the atmosphere or burned up in refineries. On his idea and initiative, the first sea vessel with a carrying capacity of 4700 tons was created to transport hydrocarbon gases with exotic-looking and impressive dimensions above deck tanks.

However, it still takes thirty-two years to build the first Methane Pioneer methane carrier, commissioned by gas company Constock International Methane Limited. Shell, which already has a stable infrastructure for the production and distribution of LPG, bought the company, and very soon two more huge tankers were built - Shell began to develop its liquefied natural gas business. When the inhabitants of the English island of Conway, where the company is building methane storage facilities, realize what is actually stored and transported to their island, they are shocked and frightened, thinking (rightly so) that the ships are just giant bombs. Then the problem of safety was really urgent, but today tankers for transporting liquefied methane are extremely safe and are not only one of the safest, but also one of the most environmentally friendly sea vessels - incomparably safer for the environment than oil tankers. The largest customer for the tanker fleet is Japan, which has practically no local energy sources, and the construction of gas pipelines to the island is a very difficult undertaking. Japan also has the largest gas vehicle fleet. The main suppliers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) today are the USA, Oman and Qatar, Canada.

Recently, the business of producing liquid hydrocarbons from natural gas has become increasingly popular. It is mainly an ultrapure diesel fuel made from methane and is expected to grow at an accelerated rate in the future. For example, Bush's energy policy requires the use of local energy sources, and Alaska has large deposits of natural gas. These processes are stimulated by rather high oil prices, which create preconditions for the development of expensive technologies - GTL (Gas-to-Liquids) is just one of them.

Basically, GTL is not a new technology. It was created in the 20s by German chemists Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch, mentioned in previous issues as part of their synthetic program. However, in contrast to the destructive hydrogenation of coal, the processes of combining light molecules into longer bonds take place here. South Africa has been producing such fuels in commercial quantities since the 50s. However, interest in them has grown in recent years in search of new opportunities to reduce harmful fuel emissions in the United States. Oil majors such as BP, ChevronTexaco, Conoco, ExxonMobil, Rentech, Sasol and Royal Dutch / Shell are spending huge sums to develop GTL-related technologies, and as a result of these events, political and social issues are increasingly being discussed in the face of incentives. taxes on clean fuel consumers. These fuels will allow many consumers of diesel fuel to replace it with more environmentally friendly fuel and will reduce the costs of car companies to achieve new levels of harmful emissions established by law. Recent in-depth testing shows that GTL fuels reduce carbon monoxide by 90%, hydrocarbons by 63% and soot by 23% without the need for particulate filters. In addition, the nature of this low sulfur fuel allows for the use of additional catalysts that can further reduce harmful emissions from vehicles.

An important advantage of GTL fuel is that it can be used directly in diesel engines without any modifications to the units. They can also be mixed with fuels containing 30 to 60 ppm sulfur. Unlike natural gas and liquefied petroleum gases, there is no need to modify the existing transport infrastructure to transport liquid fuels. According to Rentech President Denis Yakubson, this type of fuel could ideally complement the eco-friendly economic potential of diesel engines, and Shell is currently building a large $ 22,3 billion plant in Qatar with a design capacity of XNUMX million liters of synthetic fuel per day. . The biggest problem with these fuels stems from the huge investment required in new facilities and the typically expensive production process.

Biogas

However, the source of methane is not only underground deposits. In 1808, Humphrey Davy experimented with straw placed in a vacuum retort and produced biogas containing mainly methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and nitrogen. Daniel Defoe also talks about biogas in his "Lost Island" novel. However, the history of this idea is even more ancient - in the 1776 century, Jan Baptita Van Helmont believed that combustible gases could be obtained from the decomposition of organic substances, and Count Alexander Volta (the creator of the battery) also came to similar conclusions in 1859. The first biogas plant started operating in Bombay and was set up in the same year that Edwin Drake made the first successful oil drilling. An Indian plant recycles faeces and supplies gas for street lamps.

It will take a long time before the chemical processes in the production of biogas are thoroughly understood and studied. This became possible only in the 30s of the XX century and is the result of a leap in the development of microbiology. It turns out that this process is caused by anaerobic bacteria, which are one of the oldest life forms on Earth. They “grind” organic matter in an anaerobic environment (aerobic decomposition requires a lot of oxygen and generates heat). Such processes also occur naturally in swamps, marshes, paddy fields, covered lagoons, etc. D.

Modern biogas production systems are becoming more and more popular in some countries, and Sweden is a leader in both biogas production and the production of vehicles adapted to work with it. Synthesis plants use specially designed biogenerators - relatively inexpensive and simple devices that create a suitable environment for bacteria, which, depending on their type, "work" most efficiently at temperatures ranging from 40 to 60 degrees. The end products of biogas plants, in addition to gas, also contain compounds rich in ammonia, phosphorus and other elements, suitable for use in agriculture as soil fertilizers.

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