Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.
Early use of gas
From the early 1800s coal gas was used for street lighting in cities such as London, Paris, Dublin and Cork. Later gas was piped to individual consumers, mainly for lighting. Some large houses had their own gas production facilities.
New gas-powered devices were developed: heaters, cookers, refrigerators etc. The gas consisted mainly of hydrogen (H2, 50%), methane (CH4, 35%), carbon monoxide (CO, 10%), with small amounts of other gases. It was generally produced by heating coal in the absence of air; the resultant gas was stored in ‘gasometers’. During the mid 1800s other processes were developed to produce combustible gases.
When large deposits of natural gas (up to 99% methane) were found it was considered feasible to pipe it from gas fields (generally off-shore) to major cities. This happened in Britain in the 1960s following the discovery of North Sea gas, and in Ireland in the 1980s following the development of the Kinsale gas field. The changeover entailed:
Because of its carbon monoxide content coal gas was poisonous but natural gas is not inherently poisonous. However large gas leaks in an enclosed space could dilute the oxygen in the air to an unsafe level (from 21% to below 18%).