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Energy is Powering Manufacturing


Natural gas and oil are used in everyday products too numerous to count – as well as in cutting-edge technologies and inventions that improve Americans’ health; support longer, more enjoyable lives; and boost their standard of living.

  • Supporting Modern Lifestyles
  • Safer Vehicles
  • Energy for Advanced Technologies

Spotlight:

Energy for Quality of Life

Bergan Flannigan

Bergan Flannigan

Retired U.S. Army Captain – New York

“You’ve got to get up and get on with your life... I’m proud to have served my country. I’ve got no regrets.”

Life can change in an instant. It did for U.S. Army Capt. Bergan Flannigan in 2010. One moment she was leading a foot patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The next she was on the ground, a high-pitched ringing in her ears and her right leg shattered by a roadside bomb.

What Bergan thought would be a long military career was cut short, in an instant. After numerous surgeries and two years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, she’s now retired, back in her hometown of Plattsburgh, New York, and caring for her 3-year-old daughter, Willow.

From the moment Bergan wakes up in the morning until she goes to bed at night, she wears a prosthetic leg that’s a melding of biomedical engineering, artificial intelligence and petroleumbased materials. Modern prosthetics like Bergan’s provide better mobility and more comfort than ever before for about 2 million Americans living their lives after losing a limb. Bergen started wearing her prosthetic when she was pregnant with Willow. “I figured I’d need full-time mobility as a mom, so I might as well get used to it,” she says. Which she has done. In fact, being a mom gives Bergan extra incentive to go about business as usual.

“I used to feel self-conscious about people staring at my leg, so I’d avoid social situations,” she says. “But I’ve had to get over that because I don’t want Willow to miss out on anything.” Bergan’s daily routine includes about two hours of gym training. “I used to be all about cardio, but I’ve made some adjustments.” Now she’s an avid weightlifter and is game to explore new physical endeavors. Last winter she tried skeleton sledding, which is similar to riding a luge, but with the rider lying face down and head first.

Losing a limb is life-changing, but Bergan proves it doesn’t have to be life-ending. Her prosthetic plays a big part in that. Durable, lightweight resins derived from natural gas and oil are integral in the new generation of “active prostheses” that can mimic human characteristics such as flexibility, grip, strength and surface friction.

In the seven years since Bergan lost her leg, she has had several different prosthetics and dozens of different sockets – the component that encases the residual limb. It’s by far the most important feature for an amputee’s comfort and mobility. Bergen’s current, double-walled socket was designed and fitted by prosthetist Jeff Erenstone, owner of Create O&P in Lake Placid, New York, which uses 3-D printing technology to build prosthetics, reducing the time it takes to build and customize a socket from a few weeks to a few hours. Prosthetists are assisted in their craft by a new generation of thermoplastic urethane (TPU), a soft flexible material that is also strong and durable and derived from petroleum. Soon it will be possible to make prosthetics with different densities — soft in the fleshy areas but more rigid in the center where the bone would be — to better replicate the feel of a real limb.

Create O&P also makes custom prosthetic covers that encase the prosthetic’s metal pipe. These can be made in a wide array of colors and patterns – and even imprinted with a tattoo – to help users feel more emotionally connected to the device. “I have Rosie the Riveter on mine,” Bergen says. “She’s a symbol of women’s strength, and I just think she’s cool.”

Strength is something Bergan and the iconic riveter have in common. When people ask about dealing with adversity, she points to inner determination. “It’s hard, and it’s going to be hard,” she says, “but it comes down to you. You’ve got to get up and get on with your life. In spite of what happened to me, I’m proud to have served my country. I’ve got no regrets.”


Creating Products of Everyday Life

Other Than Water There are Few Substances on Earth That We Count on More Than Natural Gas and Oil.

A few years ago, the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce wrote: “If petroleum didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it. Nothing else comes close to oil when it comes to energy density, ease of handling, flexibility, convenience, cost, or scale. Bryce was spot on. Natural gas and oil are packed with energy; they’re portable and storable. The adaptable properties of natural gas and oil, for the fuels and products we use every single day, make them a necessity for modern life.

Very few aspects of modern life aren’t touched in some way by natural gas and oil. Thousands of products made from natural gas and oil make life healthier, safer, more comfortable and more enjoyable. They help save time for the things we want to do. They support creativity, help us manage our environment and think beyond ourselves. Their hydrogen and carbon molecules provide the building blocks for thousands of products and materials that weren’t available to Americans 100, 50 or even 25 years ago.

In terms of products that are essential to modern living, natural gas and oil play important roles in a number of areas – medicine, health care, transportation technologies, safety, clothing, equipment for first responders and so many more. In all of these uses associated with natural gas and oil, the greater good is served.

This is especially true in the medical field. The products made from natural gas and oil – such as artificial heart valves and acrylic lenses – are strong and durable, yet lightweight with the ability to be formed into any shape and less likely to pose a rejection risk. This makes them very useful in medical supplies such as sterile gloves, IV lines and more.

We enjoy a level of mobility that would have been impossible 100 years ago. From planes to cars to buses to bikes, we are able to navigate our world more quickly and efficiently than ever before, with help from natural gas and oil. Motor vehicles, no matter the power source, are safer, lighter, sleeker and faster because of petroleum- and natural gasbased fibers, compounds and adhesives used to manufacture and maintain them. We rely on seat belts and air bags, made with the help of natural gas and oil, to keep us safe in vehicle emergencies. Other materials and fabrics manufactured from natural gas and oil – durable, yet lightweight and flexible – help protect first responders, who in turn protect the rest of us.

All of this is possible because of the seemingly endless ways scientists are able to manipulate hydrocarbon molecules to create fabrics that have the qualities people need and want for multitasking lifestyles. As these types of products become more popular, not only will the apparel of tomorrow look good and be more comfortable, it may alert us to medical emergencies, help us train more safely and more efficiently, and ultimately take its place as part of the digital universe alongside our smartphones, fitness trackers, tablets and laptops.

The catalogue of products like these that reach each part of everyday life is voluminous. Natural gas and oil also support creativity and modern communications. From the pottery made during Egypt’s first dynasty about 8,000 years ago, to the 15th-century introduction of oil paints to the invention of photography in the early 19th-century to the advent of recorded sound and motion pictures at the beginning of the 20th-century, technology assisted by energy has advanced artistic expression.96, 97

The following content illustrates the positive ways natural gas and oil impact our lives.


Energy is Everything

From health to transportation safety to favorite pastimes and much more, natural gas and oil are involved in the products that make Americans’ lives modern, healthier and more comfortable.

Artificial Heart Valves

Artificial Heart Valves

Up to 1.5 million Americans suffer from a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve.98 For many, a stent offers the best remedy. The most advanced stents are sheathed in a thin, flexible layer of polyethylene terephthalate, a petroleum product similar to polyester.

Intraocular Lenses

Intraocular Lenses

Specially designed lenses made from acrylic, which is made from petroleum, are used to treat cataracts, which afflict 24.4 million Americans over the age of 40. The lens mimics the natural transparency and flexibility of an organic lens and, according to one clinical study, improves uncorrected distance vision to 20/40 or better in 94 percent of patients.

Medical Supplies

Medical Supplies

Plastics made from natural gas and oil are used for intravenous lines and bags, sterile gloves, anesthesia masks, catheters and more.

Vehicle Manufacture

Motor Vehicles

More than 8 percent or 332 pounds of a new car’s weight in 2015 came from fossil fuel-derived materials, up from less than 20 pounds in 1960. These materials actually reduce the overall weight of cars and trucks by replacing heavier materials, which has helped reduce U.S. air pollutants by 73 percent between 1970 and 2016, even as vehicle miles traveled have increased by 190 percent.

Airbags

Air Bags

Made from nylon, air bags contain the first mass-produced synthetic fabric, which is made with chemicals found in crude oil. This safety feature is estimated to reduce the risk of dying in a direct, frontal car crash by as much as 30 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Almost 40,000 lives were saved by air bags during the first 25 years as required equipment in U.S cars, according to NHTSA.

Seat Belts

Seat Belts

Belts – made from polyester, a strong, durable and flexible fiber that began as natural gas and crude oil – have been standard equipment for decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using seat belts reduces the risk of death by 45 percent and serious injury by 50 percent.

Kevlar/Nomex

Kevlar/Nomex

Much of the fire protection gear used by the more than 1.1 million firefighters in the United States is made from advanced fabrics and fibers that come from natural gas and oil, including Kevlar and Nomex, which provide flexible fire- and heat-resistant protection.

“Smart” Fashion

“Smart” Fashion

Clothing manufacturers create innovative fibers that provide more than a fashion statement. One line of women’s sportswear made from a unique blend of polyester, nylon and elastane, all derived from petroleum, is antimicrobial, extremely elastic and moisture-wicking. It also relays, in real time, the wearer’s vital signs gathered from several sensors embedded in the fabric, which includes a magnetometer, a gyrometer and several accelerometers. The clothing reports back to a Bluetooth radio that communicates the data to a smartphone.

3-D Printing

3-D Printing

Printers extrude heated plastic, metal or other materials, layer upon layer, to create a three-dimensional object. Some of the most common printing filaments in these devices use plastics derived from natural gas and oil. Super computers and 3-D printing were at the heart of a 2017 project during which a team of computer engineers distilled the “artistic DNA” from a painting by Rembrandt to create an “original” of the Dutch master who died almost 350 years ago. A computer-assisted 3-D printer created an original 13-layer painting with more than 148 million pixels. This type of computing takes enormous amounts of energy. The typical super computer uses about 4 megawatts of power an hour, or 40 times that of the average American household – electricity increasingly generated by natural gas.

Astronaut Attire

Astronaut Attire

An astronaut’s space suit has 14 layers of materials, including urethane-coated nylon, Kevlar, spandex and a pressure-restraining Dacron – all synthetic fabrics made from refined petroleum – to keep the wearer safe. Helmets contain plastic made from refined petroleum, 115 and the helmet’s visor is made from polycarbonate, a petroleum-based thermoplastic polymer that also is used to make bulletproof glass in cars.

Exoskeleton Technology

Exoskeleton Technology

Carbon fibers and other components derived from oil enhance safety and production, helping workers lift heavy loads. Other exoskeleton technology provides power and torque to joints that reduce the burdens on soldiers carrying gear in the field.

Telescopes

Telescopes

Optical glass lenses, mirrors and prisms in powerful telescopes, manufactured using natural gas-fired furnaces that can reach 2820 degrees Fahrenheit, let scientists see to the far reaches of our solar system and beyond.

Water

Water

Plastics for bottled water, water-filtering pitchers, water-softening attachments for the shower and many other water-related containers, cups and other devices all are made with natural gas and oil, with processes fueled by natural gas and oil.

Water Purification

Water Purification

Energy fuels technologies that produce clean water. These include one technology that extracts nutrients and pollutants from cow waste to produce water clean enough for the cows to drink, which could help farmers manage their livestock waste. Another system can purify large amounts of water for humans. After Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, 15 of these systems were installed, together purifying 10,000 gallons of water every day.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer

Ammonia is made from natural gas, and 80 percent of all U.S. ammonia production is used to produce fertilizers. The nitrogen in ammonia is essential for crop growth. Although it varies depending on the crop type, approximately 200 pounds of ammonia are used for every acre of land during crop season.

Solar Enhancements

Solar Enhancements

The first commercial land-based solar cells were developed by ExxonMobil in 1973. New work on solar cells involves development of copolymer resins for photovoltaic cells that form a protective layer between the cells’ electronics and glass.

Chemistry

Chemistry

More than 96 percent of all manufactured goods trace back to chemistry, and natural gas and oil provide the feedstocks to make about 99 percent of all petrochemicals in the U.S.

Rocket Fuel

Rocket Fuel

RP-1 fuel, a derivative of kerosene, is a liquid rocket propellant used by the first-stage boosters of the Saturn V rockets that took Americans to the moon, and is still used to put satellites in orbit with boosters such as the Falcon 9 rocket. About 95 percent of liquid hydrogen, often used for propellant once a vehicle clears the earth’s atmosphere, is made with help from natural gas.

Robotics

Robotics

Drones and robots, which can go where humans can’t, are made with carbon fiber-reinforced polymers derived from petroleum, which allows for increased payload and performance.

Paint

Paint

Many oil-based paints are manufactured from petrochemicals. Solvents that make paint easier to apply and polyurethane resins that help paint dry also are made from petroleum.

Paint Brushes

Paint Brushes

Synthetic brushes typically consist of nylon or polyester, both derived from petroleum.


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