Gas Industry

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gas Industry


the sector of the fuel industry that includes the exploration and exploitation of natural gas deposits, the supplying of gas through long-distance pipelines, the production of artificial gas from coal and shales, gas refining, and the use of gas in various industrial sectors and in the public utility area.

The origin of the gas industry dates back to the late 18th and early 19th century, when gas derived from coal was first used to illuminate cities in Great Britain, France, Belgium, and other countries. Gas generators, large plants for producing gas from coal, appeared in the latter part of the 19th century. In prerevolutionary Russia, small amounts of gas were extracted at oilfields, and gas of a low caloric content was produced from coal at small plants. Natural gas was not extracted, and its deposits were unknown.

The USSR’s gas industry has been greatly developed. Gas extraction and production has grown from 20 million cu m in 1913 to 200 billion cu m in 1970. The USSR has ranked first in Europe and second in the world (after the USA) in gas production since the late 1950’s. The rapid development of the gas industry continues to have a great impact on the economics of fuel supply in certain regions and on the development of the country’s productive forces in general. The proportion of natural gas in the total extraction of the chief types of fuel (recalculated to a standardized fuel base) increased from 2.3 percent in 1950 to 19.2 percent in 1970. The presence of considerable gas reserves, in which the USSR ranks first in the world, among the country’s natural resources accounts for the high growth rates in the gas industry.

The USSR’s proven natural gas reserves amounted to 15.8 trillion cu m in early 1971 (as compared with the USA’s 7.8 trillion cu m in early 1969). In the USSR the largest natural gas reserves are located in the northern regions of Tiumen’ Oblast and in the Uzbek SSR, the Ukrainian SSR, and the Turkmen SSR. The richest deposits, discovered in Western Siberia, are of particular importance: Urengoi, with balanced reserves of 3.8 trillion cu m, and Zapoliarnyi, with reserves of 1.6 trillion cu m. In early 1969, 573 gas and gas-condensate deposits were known in the USSR. The existence of a well-developed network of gas pipelines facilitates the rapid connection of lines from new deposits.

New methods have been developed for the exploitation of gas deposits in conjunction with the conditions of gas transport and use. The relationship “gas field—pipeline—user” constitutes a single technological system. The principles of the new methods include the maximum increase in working-well yields and the smallest outlay of materials and labor in the overall extraction of gas.

The development of the gas industry in the USSR is shown in Table 1.

The production of artificial gas is not increasing because of the low efficiency of deriving gas from solid fuels (coal, shales). Gas produced by the underground coal gasification method is also extracted in small quantities.

In 1968 the scientific research and design bureaus of the gas industry and the Ministry of Geology of the USSR developed designs for high-yield wells with working column diameters of 200-300 mm (8-12 inches) instead of 125-150 mm (5-6 inches). Each of these wells allows the extraction of approximately 2-3 million cu m of gas per day at such large gas deposits as Medvezh’e, Urengoi, and Zapoliarnyi. It is projected that using high-yield wells will give annual outputs of 50-100 billion cu m of gas from gas fields, which will result in a considerable reduction in the net cost of extracting gas.

Table 1. Gas extraction and production in the USSR (billions of cu m)
1 Including by-products
Natural gas1 ................
Artificial gas ................
Total ................6.210.447.2129.4200.0

A major area of the gas industry is the long-distance transport of gas, which is transmitted from deposit to users primarily through gas pipelines. By late 1969 the nationwide gas pipeline network totaled approximately 63,200 km, as opposed to 300 km in 1940. In the USSR large-diameter pipes are being widely adopted, and gas pipeline working pressures are being raised to 7.5 meganewtons per m2 (75 kilograms-force per cm2). Gas pipelines are being constructed with diameters of 1,400 mm, and research and design work is being done to provide future increases of working pressures and pipeline diameters and to allow the pipeline transport of gas in a liquefied state. Underground gas storage reservoirs are being created near industrial centers to ensure dependable supplies of gas. More than 90 million people were provided with gas service in early 1971. The widespread use of gas for populated areas makes for cleaner air and improves working and living conditions for the working masses. By 1975 the domestic use of gas is expected to reach 65-75 percent in cities and urban-type settlements and 40-50 percent in rural areas.

A considerable amount of gas is used in the chemical, metallurgical, construction, machine-building, and other industries, and as a result conversions to more economical manufacturing processes have been made. Refining and comprehensive gas utilization are carried on at large plants in order to derive valuable products, such as liquefied gas and elementary sulfur. Rapid development of the gas industry is

Table 2. Natural gas production in capitalist and developing countries (billions of cu m)
1 Estimate
2 Including industrial gas
Netherlands ................3606,99114,058
Italy ................176,4479,35410,408
France ................4,4168,3138,626
West Germany ................5654,2146,347
Austria ................1.4691,7971,629
Near and Middle East    
Kuwait ................9411,9823,249
Iran ................9501,4661,574
South Asia    
Indonesia ................9522,4312,776
Pakistan ................6332,0122,230
Libya ................100110,2001
Algeria ................72,1582,470
North America    
USA ................66,777359,673514,558547,595
Canada ................94714,52148,08152,223
South America    
Venezuela ................4,6067,5107,754
Argentina ................4911,3834,7935,346

planned for the future, and a gas output of 300-320 billion cu m is projected for 1975.

In foreign socialist countries the gas industry is still in its early stages. Explorations for gas deposits have greatly increased the known gas reserves of Rumania and Hungary; large natural gas deposits have been discovered in Poland; the number of proven gas reserves is growing in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia; and gas is being produced in the German Democratic Republic. The expansion in gas resources has made it possible to increase extraction and to expand gas use in various industrial sectors and gas service in populated areas. In 1969 natural gas extraction amounted to 24.1 billion cu m in Rumania, 3.7 billion cu m in Poland, and 3.2 billion cu m in Hungary.

Domestic consumers occupy an important place in the use of gas in socialist countries, and the chemical, power, and other industrial sectors are also continually expanding the use of gas. Socialist countries are continuing their explorations for natural resources and for the building of gas pipelines and other gas-related construction projects.

In capitalist countries the gas industry has been under development for more than 70 years, with particular progress having been made in the USA, Canada, and Mexico (see Table 2). In 1968 gas accounted for 37 percent of the USA’s total fuel energy balance.

The discovery of large gas deposits in the North Sea established a base for gas extraction and the transport of gas to many countries. Gas is supplied through pipelines from the Netherlands to Belgium, West Germany, and France. In Algeria, Libya and Alaska, plants are being built for liquefying natural gas in order to transport it in tankers to a number of countries where gas resources are either lacking or insufficient (including Japan and Great Britain).


Energeticheskie resursy SSSR: Toplivno-energeticheskie resursy. Moscow, 1968.
Bokserman, Iu. I. Puti razvitiia novoi tekhniki v gazovoi promyshlennosti SSSR. Moscow, 1964.
Arskii, A. K., and A. N. Arianin. Promyshlennost’ prirodnogo gaza kapitalisticheskikh i razvivaiushchikhsia stran. Moscow, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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