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Natural Gas

Major Characteristics

Natural gas is a colourless,odourless, environment friendly energy source. It is a gas consisting primarilyof methane. It is found associated with fossil fuels, in coal beds, as methaneclathrates, and is created by methanogenic organisms in marshes, bogs, andlandfills. Natural gas is commercially produced mostly from oil fields andnatural gas fields.

Before natural gas can be used asa fuel, it must undergo extensive processing to remove almost all materialsother than methane. The by-products of that processing include ethane, propane,butanes, pentanes and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons, elemental sulfur,carbon dioxide, and sometimes helium and nitrogen.

The major difficulty in the use ofnatural gas is transportation and storage. While, pipelines are used for inlandtransport, it cannot be used under oceans, which is essential for global trade.Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is a proven commercial technology for transportingnatural gas across oceans. However, as special ships and separate LNG receivingterminals are required, LNG projects are highly capital intensive in nature.

The major applications of natural gas are:

o             Fuelsource for power generation

o             Domestic/ Commercial utilization for cooking, warming as piped natural gas

o             Industrialuses: fuel source for boilers, ovens, air conditioners etc

o             Feedsource for fertilizer manufacture

o             CompressedNatural Gas (CNG) is being widely used as an alternative automobile fuel

o             Productionof petrochemicals like methanol etc.

o             Theother fractions obtained in natural gas processing like butane and propane areused in manufacture of LPG (LIquified Petroleum Gas)

Global Scenario

The world s proven natural gasreserves as on January 1, 2009 are estimated at 185.2 trillion cubic metre, ofwhich almost three-quarters are located in the Middle East and Eurasia. Russia,Iran, and Qatar together account for about 57% of the total reserves.

Natural gas consumption hasincreased strongly over the past decade. However, despite this risingconsumption, reserves-to-production ratios for most regions are substantial.Worldwide, the reserves-to-production ratio is estimated at 63 years.

The total global production ofnatural gas in 2008 is estimated to be 3065.6 billion cubic metre with the mainproducing countries being Russia Federation (602 billion cubic metre), US (582bcm), Canada (175 bcm) and Iran (116 bcm).

The total global consumption ofnatural gas in 2008 is estimated to be 3018.7 billion cubic metre with the mainconsuming countries being US (657 bcm), Russia Federation (420 billion cubicmetre), Iran (117 bcm), Canada (100 bcm) are the major consumers.

Globally, industries consume thelargest portion of natural gas, followed by the power sector. Industrialconsumption is expected to be around 40% of total global consumption by 2030 asprojected by Energy Information Administration.

The total global trade in 2008 aspiped natural gas and as LNG is reported to be 587.3 bcm and 226.5 bcm. Whilemajor exporters of piped natural gas are Russia (154 bcm), Canada (103 bcm) andNorway (93 bcm), the major importers are US (104 bcm), Germany (87 bcm) andItaly (75 bcm). The major exporters of CNG are Qatar (40 bcm), Malaysia (29bcm), Indonesia (27 bcm) and the major importers are Japan (92 bcm), SouthKorea (36 bcm) and Spain (30 bcm).

World Natural Gas Markets

Chicago Mercantile Exchange(CME), which has acquired New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), runs the world smost liquid natural gas derivative market.

Indian Scenario

Natural gas has gained prominencein India too as in the rest of the world over the last decade. India hasconsumed around 41.4 bcm of natural gas in 2008, of which domestic productionis 30.6 bcm and imports as LNG has been 10.79 bcm.

The share of imports is expectedto increase in the coming years and cross 30%, from current level of around25%.

Fertilizer (41%) and power (37%)are the major users of natural gas in India. The fertilizer sector in India ishighly subsidized by the Government and it fixes the rate at which natural gasis provided to the fertilizer manufacturing units.

Market Influencing Factors

Natural gas prices, too like thatof any other commodity are a function of market supply and demand. As there arelimited alternatives for changing consumption or production in the short run,changes in supply or demand over a short period often result in large pricemovements.

Strength of economy, weather andcrude oil prices are the major demand-side factors influencing price. Severe winterin developed countries can increase demand for domestic and commercial heatingand is a major influencing factor.

The supply side factorsinfluencing prices are variations in natural gas production, imports andstorage levels. Hurricanes and severe weather can disrupt supply.

Macro-economic factors likeexchange rates, interest rates and other economical indicators do influencenatural gas prices.


1 mmBTU (million British ThermalUnits) =25.2 SCM (Standard Cubic Metre)

1 SCM = 1 cubic metre at 1atmospheric pressure and 15°C

1 TCF (Trillion Cubic Feet) = 4MMSCMD (million metric standard cubic metre per day)

1 MMTPA (Million tonne per Annum)of LNG = 4 MMSCMD

1 MT of LNG = 1300 SCM

Power from 1 MMSCMD gas = 220 MW(Mega Watt)


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