Natural Gas Basics
What Is It?
Natural gas is an important energy source. It provides about 25 percent of all the energy we use in the United States. It is a gas that was formed a long time ago as plants and animals died and were then covered with sand, sediment and water. Over time, heat and pressure caused chemical changes to these deposits which resulted in natural gas, a valuable energy source. It is actually a mixture of gases – mostly methane with small amounts of ethane, propane, butane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Deposits of natural gas are trapped underground in porous rock formations.
Natural gas has certain properties or characteristics. First, it is a gas (not a liquid or a solid). Second, it is lighter than air (a balloon filled with natural gas would float away). Next, it is naturally colorless (you can’t see it), odorless (you can’t smell it, but a scent is added for safety) and it is combustible (it burns). With the right mixture of oxygen, natural gas burns with a blue flame providing energy.
Natural gas is a nonrenewable energy source; we only have a certain amount here on earth. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It is a fossil fuel, which is a source of chemical potential energy – it has the potential to do work or cause change, and is just waiting to be released. Of our fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas; natural gas burns the hottest, the brightest and the cleanest. So it’s a good source of energy to use in our homes.