Natural gas has become one of the most important sources of energy in the United States. It is a versatile, cost effective, safe and environmentally responsible alternative to other fuels. According to the American Gas Association, more than 56 million homes and businesses in the U.S. use natural gas for heating, cooking and other applications. In the commercial and institutional sector, natural gas is used to heat hospitals, hotels, schools, shopping centers and apartment buildings. Industry also uses natural gas for heating, heat treating, electric generation and a variety of industrial processes.
Natural gas is a light form of fossil fuel. It is derived from hydrocarbons produced thousands of years ago when plant and animal materials were buried beneath layers of soil and rock. Over time, heat and pressure combined to transform this mass into fossil fuels.
To produce what is known as “sales quality gas”, raw gas is sent to a processing plant where ethane, propane, butane and other hydrocarbons are removed. Once processed, natural gas consists predominantly of methane, the lightest hydrocarbon component of natural gas. In fact, natural gas is lighter than air. If released, it will rise and disperse into the atmosphere, rather than pool as do other fuels.
Natural gas is the cleanest and most efficient fossil fuel. When natural gas is burned, virtually no atmospheric emissions of sulfur dioxide or small particulate matter are released and the amount of nitrogen oxide produced is significantly less than other fuels. Increased use of natural gas can help address environmental concerns by reducing air emissions – making natural gas the environmental fuel of choice.