Dec 16, 2021At Home

Natural gas & manufacturing

Natural gas is vital to Australian manufacturing. It really is. The question you might have, though, is how?

What does industry do with natural gas?

We’re glad you asked.

Natural gas has two primary applications for industry. The first is as a feedstock, the second is as an energy source.

What’s a feedstock?

Feedstock means a raw material required for an industrial process. A basic, unprocessed good, or primary material.

As a feedstock, natural gas is primarily used for chemical and refining processes.

It’s the feedstock for hydrogen production, critical to future energy efficient mobility, and is used to produce other vital chemicals like ammonia. Ammonia is used to produce fertiliser, plastics, fibres, explosives, and even dyes and pharmaceuticals.

It can also be used as a feedstock for methanol. Methanol is used in products like adhesives, foam, solvent, plastics, paints – even windshield washer fluid.

Natural gas as an energy source

It has other uses, but the main use for natural gas as an energy source is for heat.

Natural gas is preferred because of the ability to maintain consistent and controllable temperatures, critical to industrial processes. It helps create things like bricks and other construction necessities, and a litany of things you use every day.

Let’s take a beer bottle, for example. A gas-fired furnace is a vital part of the manufacturing process to get the bottle ready for your hot little hands.

Take a look at this interactive map by O-I glass of just what goes into the bottle-making process – it shows a step-by-step animation of the 14 stages, from raw product to packing bottles for distribution. It might surprise you to know, that the glass melting furnaces need to be kept running and hot 24 hours, seven days a week – now that’s hard work!

Furnaces operate around the clock because it is much more energy efficient. Switching the furnace off at the end of a workday is not an option. It takes five days to cool and heating it back up takes 10 days.

Furnaces are heated to around 1550 Celsius and can process several hundred tonnes of glass per day, depending on their size. Many O-I plants have more than one furnace.

Odds are you’re depending on products that rely on natural gas to be created, every day.

That’s why natural gas is naturally part of Aussie life!