What is Natural Gas?

Natural Gas is a gas that was formed a long, long time ago as plankton, tiny plants and animals, died and then were covered with sand, sediment and water.
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Properties and Characteristics:

  • Natural gas is a gas, not a liquid or a solid, and it is lighter than air.
  • It is also colorless and odorless, so the odorant, mercaptan is added for safety to help detect leaks.
  • Another property of natural gas is that it is combustible (it burns).

Quick Facts:

  • 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 is a good source of energy to use in our homes.

How is Natural Gas Located?

Natural gas generally collects in porous rock reservoirs. These reservoirs are geologic rock formations that have little spaces or pockets, like a sponge, to hold the natural gas. Layers of impermeable or nonporous rock trap the natural gas and block it from moving to the surface. Energy experts find these natural gas deposits using geologic mapping, surveys and aerial photographs. As deposits become scarcer and deeper, more advanced technologies are used­, such as magnetic measurement, satellite imagery, gravity mapping and seismic sound wave reflection.

How is Natural Gas Transported?

Natural Gas is transported through large high-pressure pipelines, which transport natural gas long distances. Smaller pipes are used to deliver natural gas to homes and businesses where it will be used everyday. These underground pipelines are very reliable delivery systems and protected from weather conditions.

How is Natural Gas Used?

Natural Gas is used in many ways everyday! From heating homes and water for showers to drying clothes and cooking food. Natural gas enriches our lives in countless ways that are increasing. As it replaces other fuels, it helps create energy independence.

Natural gas also provides the base ingredients for fertilizer to grow crops, antifreeze and fabrics. It is used in paper production; metals, chemicals and petroleum refining; and glass, plastic and food processing. Waste treatment and incineration; medicines and makeup, home decor and sporting goods; as well as fueling aviation and producing hydrogen are also accomplished using natural gas.

Direct Use

Natural gas is an efficient, abundant, clean, affordable and domestically produced energy resource. The increased direct-use of natural gas in homes and businesses will improve our nation’s energy efficiency and helps to bring about a cleaner environment.  The term “direct-use” refers to using natural gas directly in residential and commercial applications rather than burning it as a generation fuel for electricity.
Natural gas is efficient. It only loses about 10 percent of its usable energy from wellhead to burner tip. Electricity, for example, loses more than 70 percent of its usable energy in its journey from its fuel source at a coal mine, a solar panel, an oil wellhead or a wind turbine to its final destination at the electric outlet (American Public Gas Association, APGA,  apga.org/issues/directuse).