Natural gas or fossil gas is a gaseous mixture of hydrocarbons consisting mainly of methane, but usually containing some amount of other higher alkanes and sometimes small amounts of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide or helium. It exists naturally in certain porous rocks, is extracted by drilling, and is used in fossil fuels or carbon chemistry. Methane is usually upgraded to methanol by syngas. Oxidative dehydrogenation of ethane leads to ethylene, which can be converted to ethylene oxide, ethylene glycol, acetaldehyde or other alkenes. Propane can be converted to propylene 4,5,6 or oxidized to acrylic acid 7,8,9 and acrylonitrile.
In 2019, natural gas was the third most used primary energy source in the world, accounting for 23.2% of consumption, behind oil (30.9%) and coal (26.8%). Its share is growing rapidly (16.1% in 1973), as is world production (228% increase in 47 years from 1973 to 2020 due to unconventional gas development).
According to the International Energy Agency, global CO2 emissions from natural gas reached 6,743 Mt (million tons) in 2017, an increase of 83.4% since 1990. It accounted for 21.6% of emissions from energy in 2019, compared to 44.0% for coal and 33.7% for oil. The oil and gas sector also generates more than 20% of global methane emissions, a gas with a global warming potential 25 times greater than CO2.
Natural gas has developed rapidly since the 1970s, substantially surpassing coal for industrial, domestic and electricity production. However, in the early 21st century, rising prices, declining consumption in developed countries, demand in emerging countries and advances in coal processing have given coal some momentum. Global consumption of natural gas, which decreased from 2010 to 2014, is on the rise again, especially in China and Europe, which are replacing coal-fired power plants with gas-fired power plants from 2015.
Reserves are not well known, but they have increased due to the development of unconventional gases (such as shale gas). World proven reserves in 2020 increased by 7.3% compared to 2010, corresponding to 51.6 years of production. Geographically, 39.1% are in the Middle East and 33% are in former Soviet Union countries. Only Russia, Iran and Qatar hold 51.3% of world reserves.
The two major producers of natural gas are the United States (23.1% of the world total) and Russia (17.4%) in 2021, followed by Iran, China, Qatar, Canada and Australia. The major consuming countries are the United States (20.5%), Russia (11.8%), China (9.4%), and Iran (6.0%). Between 2011 and 2021, global consumption increased by 25%, but declined by 7% in Japan, 6% in the UK and 2% in Italy, and increased by 180% in China, 58% in Iran and 26% in the US. , Canada 19%. In 2017, the United States, which until then was a net importer, became a net exporter. In 2021, it became the second largest exporter accounting for 14.7% of global exports after Russia (19.8%). The EU’s share of world imports is 28.6%, followed by China (13.3%) and the rest of Europe (10.5%).