What Is Natural Gas?

Natural gas is the earth’s cleanest fossil fuel and is colorless and odorless in its natural state. It is composed of four hydrocarbon atoms and one carbon atom (CH4 or methane).

Much of the natural gas we find and use today began as microscopic plants and animals living in shallow marine environments millions of years ago.

As living organisms, they absorbed energy from the sun, which was stored as carbon molecules in their bodies. When they died, they sank to the bottom of the sea and were covered by layer after layer of sediment. As this organic feedstock became buried deeper in the earth, heat, combined with the pressure of compaction, converted some of the biomaterial into natural gas.

Natural Gas is Renewable

Renewable gas is natural gas or biomethane produced from existing waste streams and a variety of renewable and sustainable biomass sources, including animal waste, landfills, crop residuals and food waste. Once processed, it is interchangeable with traditional pipeline-quality natural gas. It is carbon neutral, extremely versatile and fully compatible with the U.S. pipeline infrastructure.

An analysis conducted by the Gas Technology Institute in 2011 determined that renewable gas has the potential to add up to 2.5 quadrillion Btus annually — enough to meet the natural gas needs of half of all American homes.

Where We Find It

Technological advances, an accessible and abundant domestic resource, and the world’s most extensive and reliable delivery infrastructure have created a fundamental shift in the natural gas marketplace, providing an opportunity to satisfy significant new demand at affordable prices well into the future.

A Long History of Many Uses

The first use of gas energy in the United States occurred in 1816, when gaslights illuminated the streets of Baltimore, Maryland. 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.

The Earth’s Cleanest Fossil Fuel

Natural gas is composed of four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom (CH4 or methane). Colorless and odorless in its natural state, natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. When it burns, natural gas produces mostly carbon dioxide, water vapor and small amounts of nitrogen oxides.