Natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbon gases. The primary component of natural gas is methane, but there are several other gases included in the typical makeup of natural gas such as ethane, propane, and butane. The purest form of natural gas, which consists of almost pure methane, is the gas commonly used to heat homes and fuel household appliances. Residential natural gas accounts for 21 percent of total natural gas use. Natural gas is also used to generate electricity and provide energy to the industrial and commercial sectors. Natural gas heats homes and appliances, but it also is essential for creating products such as plastics, fertilizers and many fabrics.
Natural gas is an important energy source and vital component of the world’s supply of energy. Natural gas is a clean-burning fossil fuel which emits almost 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and over 30 percent less carbon dioxide than oil. In addition to being a clean source of energy, natural gas also is very abundant in the United States. The discovery of shale gas and the ability in the last decade to successfully produce it -- has revealed an even larger natural gas supply which will last for more than 100 years.
Natural gas was created from the remains of organic material from millions of years ago which is now trapped beneath rocks. Geologists use their knowledge of the earth’s surface to anticipate areas most likely to contain natural gas. Once the natural gas is successfully located, the production process begins. During the production process, wells are dilled into the rock and pipes are used to bring the natural gas to the surface. In most wells, the pressure of the natural gas is enough to force it to the surface and then into the gathering lines. Gathering lines link production areas to collection points. These gathering lines often link to a processing facility which removes natural gas liquids and some impurities. Once the natural gas is processed, it is distributed through transmission pipelines where it is then delivered to homes for heating and cooking purposes, to power plants and to other industries, where it helps spur economic growth and job creation throughout North America.