Natural gas plays an important role as a fuel for power generation and industrial manufacturing processes, for residential heating appliances and also as a feedstock for processes in the chemical industries. The share of natural gas in the global primary energy mix is likely to increase even further in the future due to the decline of coal in power generation, as natural gas is the cleanest among the fossil fuels, both in terms of its carbon dioxide footprint, but also in the context of other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides or particulate matter.
At the same time, the global gas markets are changing: natural gas is a globally traded commodity today that is transported all over the world, both by liquefied natural gas tankers and an extended grid of pipelines. In some regions of the world, market structures differ as well. In Europe, for example, gas markets become increasingly international and liberalised.
One consequence of these developments is that end-users are more likely to experience significant fluctuations of the locally available natural gas quality as gas markets become more dynamic. The consequences of such local variations depend on the application: some are more sensitive than others in terms of efficiency, pollutant emissions or product quality. For end-users in many regions of the world, fluctuating gas qualities are likely to be a new experience and surveys indicate a certain lack of awareness for this topic among many operators of industrial large-scale combustion processes.
This article, based on two presentations at the IFRF Topic-Oriented Technical Meeting (TOTeM) on ‘Gaseous Fuels for Industry and Power Generation: Challenges and Opportunities’ in March 2017, gives an overview on the importance of natural gas for both manufacturing industries and power generation, current research on the sensitivity of various industries to gas quality and highlights the impact that fluctuating gas qualities can have on large-scale combustion applications. It also shows the importance of advanced gas quality measurement and burner/process control technologies to make sensitive processes more resilient to gas quality changes without compromising on efficiency, product quality or pollutant emissions.