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Natural Gas Uses

How is Natural Gas Formed?

Natural gas is made up of just two elements - carbon and hydrogen. It is part of a family of chemicals known as hydrocarbons, which also includes oil and gasoline. As its name suggests, natural gas comes out of the ground as a gas; oil, gasoline and other hydrocarbons are recovered mixed together in a liquid called crude oil.

Stage 1 -

All of the natural gas we use today began as microscopic plants and animals living in the ocean millions of years ago. As these microscopic plants and animals lived, 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. Over millions of years, layer after layer of sediment and other plants and bacteria were formed.

Stage 2 -

As they became buried ever deeper, heat and pressure began to rise. The amount of pressure and the degree of heat, along with the type of biomass, determined if the material became oil or natural gas. Very high heat or biomass made predominantly of plant material produced natural gas.

Stage 3 -

After oil and natural gas were formed, they tended to migrate through tiny pores in the surrounding rock. Some oil and natural gas migrated all the way to the surface and escaped. Other oil and natural gas deposits migrated until they were caught under impermeable layers of rock or clay, where they were trapped. These trapped deposits are where we find oil and natural gas today.

How is Natural Gas Used?

  • Natural gas meets 28 percent of U.S. energy demand (as of 2012).
  • Natural gas now heats 51 percent of U.S. households. It also cools many homes and provides fuel for cooking.
  • Because natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline or diesel, many companies and municipalities are deploying fleets of natural gas-powered cars, trucks and buses to reduce emissions. There are approximately 142,000 natural gas vehicles operating on American roads.