Friday, October 24, 2008

The Natural Gas is an Ancient Discovery

The first discoveries of natural gas seeps were made in Iran between 6000 and 2000 bc. Many early writers described the natural petroleum seeps in the Middle East, especially in the Baku region of what is now Azerbaijan. The gas seeps, probably first ignited by lightning, provided the fuel for the “eternal fires” of the fire-worshiping religion of the ancient Persians.

However still the Natural gas is believed to have been first discovered and used by the Chinese, perhaps as early as 1000 B.C. Shallow stores of natural gas were released from just beneath the ground and piped short distances to be used as a fuel source. Natural gas provided a continuous source of energy for flames. These "eternal fires" were found in temples and also used as attractions for visitors.

Around 2300 years ago, when no one in Europe or the Middle East could melt even one ounce of iron the Chinese were casting multi-ton iron objects. It was not until the mid-1700's in Europe that such feats of metallurgy were achieved in Britain, the technically most advanced country of Europe. The early success in iron-casting in China was due to a superior form of bellows that delivered a continuous stream of air to a furnace instead of an interrupted stream as from the type of bellows used in the West. No one beforehand would have given much thought or attention to such a seemingly unimportant device as the Chinese bellows, but it turned out to be a crucial technological development.

In the search for salt wells the ancient Chinese developed a technology of driving bamboo poles deep into the earth. Depths up to a kilometer were achieved through this technique. In addition to brine this drilling also often tapped into reservoirs of natural gas. This natural gas was captured in barrels and used as fuel to evaporate the water from brine to produce salt.

The use of natural gas was mentioned in China about 900 bc. It was in China in 211 bc that the first known well was drilled for natural gas to reported depths of 150 metres (500 feet). The Chinese drilled their wells with bamboo poles and primitive percussion bits for the express purpose of searching for gas in Late Triassic limestones (more than 208,000,000 years old) in an anticline west of modern Chungking. The gas was burned to dry the rock salt found interbedded in the limestone. Eventually wells were drilled to depths approaching 1,000 metres, and more than 1,100 wells had been drilled into the anticline by 1900.

Natural gas was unknown in Europe until its discovery in England in 1659, and even then it did not come into wide use. Instead, gas obtained from carbonized coal (known as town gas) became the primary fuel for illuminating streets and houses throughout much of Europe from 1790 on.

One of the earliest attempts to harness it for economic use occurred in 1824 in Fredonia, New York and led to the formation of the first natural gas company in the United States, the Fredonia Gas Light Company, in 1859. Toward the latter part of the nineteenth century large industrial cities began to use natural gas. Pipelines were constructed to conduct the gas to these areas. Steady growth in the use of gas marked the early and mid-twentieth century. However, it was the shortages of crude oil in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s that forced major industrial nations to seek energy alternatives. Since those events, gas has become a central fossil fuel energy source


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