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Gas 101

Natural Gas

What is Natural Gas?

Natural gas is a fossil fuel. As the name implies, it is an energy fuel that has a natural origin. Unlike some energy sources, it is not manufactured and is used essentially in the same form as it is found.

Natural gas is composed primarily of methane and is found beneath the earth's surface. By itself, natural gas is odorless, colorless and tasteless. An odorant is added for you safety. This odorant makes natural gas easy to detect.

Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Compared to electric systems, the use of natural gas as an energy fuel emits lower levels of air pollutants, carbon dioxide and solid waste by-products. This means natural gas is safer for our environment.

About Natural Gas

Natural gas is a highly flammable hydrocarbon gas consisting chiefly of methane (CH4). Although methane is always the chief component, it may also include other gases such as oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, ethane, ethylene, propane, and even some helium.

The gas is found entrapped in the earth's crust at varying depths beneath impervious strata, such as limestone, and may or may not be in association with oil. If oil is present it is called wet gas, else dry gas. Deposits are fairly widely distributed, however, in the contiguous US only Texas and Louisiana are net exporters. All of the other states use more gas than they produce. The gas is drawn from wells, similar to oil wells, and is usually transported by pipelines, sometimes a thousand miles or more.

As a fuel, natural gas is convenient and efficient. It is used primarily for heat, in industrial, commercial and residential settings. In many homes the house and water are heated by gas, the food is cooked with it and clothes dried. It is also used to produce electricity, in many cases using gas fired turbines that are similar to jet engines. Gas has the great advantage of producing no smoke or ash on burning.

Natural Gas Facts

Natural gas is not corrosive or poisonous, its ignition temperature is high, it is lighter than air, and it has a narrow flammability range, making it an inherently safe fuel compared to other fuel sources.

Natural gas cannot contaminate soil or water.

It will always rise to the atmosphere out of doors, unlike other fuels that are heavier than air and can pool, either as a liquid or a vapor, upon the ground.

Natural gas contains a distinctive odorant that allows natural gas to be detected in very small amounts (0.5% concentration), well below levels that can support combustion.