Episode 161: What are some of the options for using shale gas?

Andrew Gellman, Lord Professor of Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses potential uses for shale gas beyond heating and cooking.

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Natural Gas Vehicles from the Department of Energy

Global Demand, Inexpensive Natural Gas are Increasing Domestic Plastic Production from the US Energy Information Administration

Natural Gas Explained: Use of Natural Gas from the US Energy Information Administration

Transcript

What are some of the options for using shale gas?

HOST: We are all aware of the relatively recent impact of shale gas on our energy economy, but did you know that shale gas can be used for products other than energy? On this week’s Energy Bite, Andy Gellman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

ANDY: The most common use of shale gas, also known as natural gas, is to burn it. Human beings and our evolutionary predecessors have been burning things for heating and cooking purposes for over 1 million years. Today, shale gas is burned in large scale power plants and the heat released is used to make electricity. In some places shale gas is used as fuel for transportation vehicles.

HOST: But shale can gas be used for more than this?

ANDY: Absolutely! Shale gas consists largely of methane, but with varying amounts of other molecules such as ethane and propane. In some shale gas regions, like the Marcellus region in Pennsylvania, the proportions of ethane and propane are quite high and have enormous potential value. By simply removing some of the hydrogen contained in these molecules one creates ethylene and propylene. These chemicals can then be used as the feedstocks for production of a wide variety of commodity chemicals ranging from fuels to textiles to plastics. The value of these goods is far more than the value of the methane itself.

HOST: Did you know that shale gas can be used for more than heating and cooking? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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