fairknowledge / August 11, 2018


Natural gas is a combustible, gaseous mixture of simple hydrocarbon compounds, usually found in deep underground reservoirs formed by porous rock. Natural gas is a fossil fuel composed almost entirely of methane, but does contain small amounts of other gases, including ethane, propane, butane and pentane. Methane is composed of a molecule of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.


Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, producing primarily carbon dioxide, water vapor and small amounts of nitrogen oxides. Other fossil fuels are coal and oil, which together with natural gas, account for about 88 percent of U.S. energy consumption.


The prevailing scientific theory is that natural gas was formed millions of years ago when plants and tiny sea animals were buried by sand and rock. Layers of mud, sand, rock and plant and animal matter continued to build up until the pressure and heat from the earth turned them into petroleum and natural gas.

The first use of gas energy in the United States occurred in 1816, when gaslights illuminated the streets of Baltimore, Md. By 1900, natural gas had been discovered in 17 states. During the years following World War II, expansion of the extensive interstate pipeline network occurred, bringing natural gas service to customers all over the country.

Currently, oil provides the largest share of U.S. energy consumption — about 41 percent of the entire market. Natural gas provides about 24 percent, coal 23 percent, hydropower 4 percent and nuclear power 8 percent. However, about one-half of the oil Americans use is imported; in contrast, 85 percent of the natural gas U.S. consumers use is produced domestically. The remaining 15 percent primarily comes from Canada via pipeline.

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