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Geology/Thermal cracking


Dear sir,
         what is thermal cracking ? how thermal cracking become for natural gas ?

waqar ahmed

Dear Waqar,

Thanks for your question and I am really pleased to see your increasing interest in geology.

The Hydrocarbon (HC)is the most appropriate term for describing oil and natural gas because it's an organic compound consisting of hydrogen and carbon. HC could very simple to extremely complex internal atomic structures.

Essentially, there are 4 types of HC, saturated HC (Alkanes)which are the simplest and composed of a single bond and contain the maximum number of hydrogen atoms per carbon atom. All major HC we use in our daily lives (fuel gas etc) are basically alkanes.

Other types are, unsaturated HC with one or more double bond between carbon atoms ad referred as Alkenes and Alkynes which contain at least one double or triple bond respectively and they have lesser hydrogen atoms per carbon atoms than alkanes. Cycloalkanes (attached one or more carbon ring to Hydrogen atom) and Aromatic hydrocarbons (referred also as Arenes)which have minimum one aromatic ring.

Saturated Hydrocarbon (alkanes) which we use need to obtain in commercial quantity to be used as a fuel; petrol or gasoline comes from crude oil after refining processes in refineries where it is processed by cracking under the elevated temperature conditions with added catalyst and  solvents which allow complex HC molecules to break into simpler HC molecules. Through cracking, you can derive several HC products from crude oil including petrol, gas, tar, waxes as well.

The term thermal cracking can be defined to break anything into smaller fragments by heating and in our case it's the crude oil which produce other simpler to complex HC products. When heating, the simpler HC structure would break first and progressively as heating continues, the complex would break later. Methane (CH4)would come first and waxes come at the end depending the quality of the crude oil. It is very likely that a crude oil with heavier gravity, produce several HC products and derivatives than a lighter one.

Hope this answer is helpful.



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Syed Tariq Hasany


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