Hong Kong: Heating and cooking with hydrogen-rich ‘town gas’


Town gas, a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) was first produced by William Murdoch in 1794 in a coal gasification retort. The gas was used in his house and office in Redruth, Cornwall. Many cities relied on town gas for heat and light during the industrial revolution.

In the US, the Seattle Gas Light Company operated a coal gasification facility from 1906 which could produce up to 170,000 cubic metres per day of town gas. The rusted remains of the plant can still be seen in Gas Works Park, on the north shore of Lake Union.

Over time, gas holders and pipeline distribution networks were converted from town gas to natural gas. Discoveries of natural gas in the North Sea and North America enabled these regions to convert from coal gasification to the direct use of natural gas. The avoidance of emissions from coal gasification plants contributed to an improvement in air quality.

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