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The Combustion of Hydrocarbons - Chemistry.

The Incomplete Combustion of Natural Gas - Methane.

Incomplete combustion means burning in a lack of air
(not enough oxygen). If there is not enough oxygen
available for all the carbon to turn into carbon dioxide
(see complete combustion), then some or all of the
carbon turns to carbon monoxide. This happens with
any hydrocarbon. We shall take methane as an example.

During incomplete combustion methane gas burns with a
yellow flame
(unlike the clear blue flame seen in complete combustion).
Carbon particles (sooty marks) may also be seen.

methane + oxygen  arrow  carbon monoxide + water.
2CH4(g) + 3O2(g)   arrow          2CO(g)    +    4H2O(l)

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a very poisonous gas.
It can not be seen or smelt.
Faulty gas fires or boilers may produce carbon monoxide
and poison the air in a room without anyone knowing.
Every year, people die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Why is Carbon Monoxide Poisonous?

Carbon monoxide acts as a poison by combining with
haemoglobin in the blood. Haemoglobin normally reacts
with oxygen from the air and transports the oxygen to
the parts of the body which need it. Carbon monoxide is
much more reactive with haemoglobin than oxygen is.
It combines to form a stable compound with haemoglobin,
preventing the transport of oxygen around the body.
The person dies by suffocating from the inside (nasty!).

Combustion of hydrocarbons, whether
complete or incomplete, have environmental
and health concerns, see environmental issues.

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