|Commercial Energy Use
Policy and Analysis Inc, Fueling the Future 2000
Commercial uses of natural gas are very similar to
residential uses. The commercial sector includes public
and private enterprises, like office buildings, schools,
churches, hotels, restaurants, and government buildings.
The main uses of natural gas in this sector include
space heating, water heating, and cooling. For restaurants
and other establishments that require cooking facilities,
natural gas is a popular choice to fulfill these needs.
According to the Energy
Information Administration (EIA), as of the year
2003, the commercial sector consumes about 8,368 trillion
Btu's of energy a year (aside from electrical system
losses), most of which is required for space heating,
lighting, and cooling.
Of this 8,368 trillion Btu's, about 3,233 trillion
Btu's (or 39 percent) are supplied by natural gas. Natural
gas is the primary energy source for space and water
heating, cooking, and drying, and also accounts for
about 13 percent of energy used in commercial cooling.
Natural gas space and water heating for commercial
buildings is very similar to that found in residential
houses. Natural gas is an extremely efficient, economical
fuel for heating in all types of commercial buildings.
Although space and water heating account for a great
deal of natural gas use in commercial settings, non-space
heating applications are expected to account for the
majority of growth in natural gas use in those settings.
Cooling and cooking represent two major growth areas
for the use of natural gas in commercial settings.
|A Desiccant Unit Atop the Park
Hyatt Hotel, Washington D.C.
Renewable Energy Laboratory, DOE
Natural gas currently accounts for 13 percent of energy
used in commercial cooling, but this percentage is expected
to increase due to technological innovations in commercial
natural gas cooling techniques. There are three types
of natural gas driven cooling processes. Engine driven
chillers use a natural gas engine, instead of an electric
motor, to drive a compressor. With these systems, waste
heat from the gas engine can be used for heating applications,
increasing energy efficiency. The second category of
natural gas cooling devices consist of what are called
absorption chillers, which provide cool air by evaporating
a refrigerant like water or ammonia. These absorption
chillers are best suited to cooling large commercial
buildings, like office towers and shopping malls. The
third type of commercial cooling system consists of
gas-based desiccant systems. These systems cool by reducing
humidity in the air. Cooling this dry air requires much
less energy than it would to cool humid air. For more
information on natural gas fired cooling systems, click
Another area of growth in commercial natural gas use
is in the food service industry. Natural gas is an excellent
choice for commercial cooking requirements, as it is
a flexible energy source in being able to supply the
food service industry with appliances that can cook
food in many different ways. Natural gas is also an
economical, efficient choice for large commercial food
preparation establishments. New developments such as
Nontraditional Restaurant Systems, which provide compact,
multifunctional natural gas appliances for smaller sized
food outlets such as those found in shopping malls and
airports, are expanding the commercial use of natural
gas. These types of systems can integrate a gas-fired
fryer, griddle, oven, hot and cold storage areas, and
multiple venting options in a relatively small space
- providing the ease and efficiency of natural gas cooking
while being compact enough to serve small kiosk type
|A Chef Prepares Food
At the Piedmont
Gas Cooking Technology Center
In addition to traditional uses of natural gas for
space heating, cooling, cooking and water heating, a
number of technological advancements have allowed natural
gas to be used to increase energy efficiency in commercial
settings. Many buildings, because of their high electricity
needs, have on-site generators that produce their own
electricity. Natural gas powered reciprocating engines,
turbines, and fuel cells are all used in commercial
settings to generate electricity. These types of 'distributed
generation' units offer commercial environments more
independence from power disruption, high-quality consistent
electricity, and control over their own energy supply.
For more information on natural gas powered electric
generation, click here.
Another technological innovation brought about is combined
heating and power (CHP) and combined cooling, heating
and power (CCHP) systems, which are used in commercial
settings to increase energy efficiency. These are integrated
systems that are able to use energy that is normally
lost as heat. For example, heat that is released from
natural gas powered electricity generators can be harnessed
to run space or water heaters, or commercial boilers.
Using this normally wasted energy can dramatically improve
energy efficiency. For more information on CHP and CCHP
systems, click here.
For more information on commercial energy demand, including
natural gas consumption and updated end-use statistics,
Now that commercial uses of natural gas have been discussed,
to learn more about industrial natural gas use!