Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why you do your own homework

On the preparedness front, there is a lot of information out there.  Some of it is inaccurate, and relying on it could cause you some serious problems.

A fairly well know survival podcast has one particular person that is their "go to guy" for all things energy.  Most of the time, he has his stuff together, and I've learned a lot from listening to him.  But lately, I've heard him say something--twice--that I was pretty sure was wrong, based on things I've heard from folks in the industry in question.  So I've done a quick check on the subject, just to confirm what I thought I knew.  Here's the background and the results.

This person advocated natural gas as a big part of your preparedness posture.  Not LPG or propane, but natural gas as in you have a gas meter at your house, the furnace and stove are attached to it and so on.  He says that in the event of a serious, long-term emergency, the natural gas distribution system almost runs itself and could stay up for months to years.  Pressure is supplied naturally from the wells, and if no one is digging, pipelines are very reliable.  You could still cook, and if you have a generator hooked up, you could power it with natural gas and have electricity as well.  With a big enough generator you could even keep your central heat in the winter and AC in the summer.  Beats candles, cutting wood and sweating in the heat, let me tell you!

Um, nazzo fast, Guido.  According to the American Gas Association, it doesn't work quite that way.  Starting in the production fields, compressors are needed to pressurize the lines.  Transmission lines need to be pressurized so that the gas keeps moving.  While many of these systems are automated, they are centrally controlled--by people, via electronic control systems.  As it gets closer to your home, pressure and flow rates are monitored to ensure that things keep moving (and I assume, nothing blows up), again by people using electronic control systems.

Much of this infrastructure is powered by the natural gas in the lines themselves, but even automated systems break down.  I suppose it's possible for much of the system to function on its own for a while, perhaps even a few months, as long as the electronic control systems work.  But telling people that they will have near limitless energy available in a long-term grid-down situation is not accurate information, in my opinion.  Heck, I wouldn't trust that systems for weeks--what happens if the power in the monitoring stations goes out?

I do believe that natural gas could be a useful strategy.  In the event of an emergency, even a regional one, natural gas will probably keep flowing.  Can you imagine how much easier your life would be in something like a hurricane event if you still had large quantities of reliable power?  You wouldn't be freezing in the dark in a nor' easter in the Rockaways, that's a fact.

But if I were worried about a months-to-years type event, I'd be sure to have a propane pig, rejetting kits and other sources of power and heat at hand, just in case.

Double check, triple check, quadruple and quintuple check not only your supplies, but your information.  Because the last place you want to get let down by either is when something has hit the fan and became airborne.

(And yes, I've confirmed this information on how the natural gas distribution system works from multiple sources. )

1 comment:

Debra KI4TON said...

If you have the money, you can buy wood-gasifier generators. You can make your own of course based on instructions from WWII, but they tend to come with a lot of carbon monoxide exposure.