Replacing Natural Gas
Fuelcor patents describe several preferred alternatives to making methane instead of oil. This can be treated as a short-term solution to replacing natural gas with nuclear energy.
Natural gas is used primarily for heating in residential settings: furnaces, water heaters, and gas ranges. All these uses can be replaced with electric heating that uses electric energy derived from nuclear fuels. But, it will take time to replace the existing natural gas infrastructure. During this changeover time, Fuelcor processes can be used to make gas for residential heating. The question is, which gas to make?
Natural gas containing primarily methane is the most damaging fossil fuel that increases the temperature of our habitat. The reason is that it is 20–50 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, as a function of methane life in air since emission. It leaks into the air starting at the gas wells, then in distribution, and finally at points of use. Gas explosions are ubiquitous. The amount of leakage multiplied by the greenhouse effect makes methane worse than coal, even before burning natural gas.
The better gas to use is ethane (C2H6). Its greenhouse effect is one-third that of methane, it is denser, and leaks less than methane, and more of it can be delivered through the existing infrastructure. Ethane is a component of natural gas, sometimes up to as much as 10 percent of methane content.
We are working on the Fuelcor process to make ethane for the interim, until the existing gas infrastructure is replaced with nuclear-generated electric energy for residential usage.