Seven Myths About Natural Gas

Explore seven common myths about natural gas.


1. Natural gas is explosive.

FALSE. Natural gas doesn’t explode. It will ignite, but only when there is a source of ignition. This can occur only under two simultaneous circumstances: the gas must be present in a concentration of 5 to 15 percent relative to the air, and the gas must come in contact with an ignition source that is 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

2. Natural gas is toxic.

FALSE. Natural gas is non-toxic and cannot cause you to become sick, unless the gas is in such high concentrations that you cannot get enough oxygen to breathe.

3. Natural gas is heavier than air.

FALSE. When natural gas escapes, it rises and dissipates harmlessly into the atmosphere. Other gases, such as propane, are heavier than air, causing them to "pool" on the ground (similar to spilled gasoline).

4. Natural gas is bad for the environment.

FALSE. Natural gas is the cleanest burning of all the fossil fuels, especially when it is used directly for space and water heating, rather than as fuel to generate electricity.

5. Natural gas pipelines are dangerous.

FALSE. The National Transportation Safety Board reports that on average, 50,000 people die in car accidents in the United States each year, while 22 die from natural gas distribution and transmission pipeline related accidents.

State and federal pipeline safety regulations are tougher now than ever, and today’s pipelines are constructed of better materials and better technology than ever. Among all pipelines, natural gas pipelines have the best safety record. Although other parties have damaged NW Natural’s pipelines, the company has never had a transmission line failure in its 145-year history. In 2000, NW Natural completed the replacement of its entire cast iron pipe system and is believed to be the first company in the nation to do so.

6. Natural gas reserves are shrinking.

FALSE. Geologists and industry experts today say there up to 156+ years of proven natural gas reserves, and additional reserves are being discovered each year.

7. Natural gas stinks!

FALSE. Natural gas has no odor. As a safety precaution, NW Natural adds a distinctive odorant called mercaptan so that if natural gas escapes, it can be detected.