The Story of Natural Gas

What is natural gas?

Natural gas is composed mostly of methane, but it also contains small amounts of ethane, propane, butane, and pentane. Methane, a combination of hydrogen and carbon, is formed when plants and animals (organic matter) are trapped beneath the sedimentary layers of the earth. Millions of years ago, these organisms died and were buried along with mud and sand, usually on the floors of lakes, oceans, and riverbeds, with bacteria slowly breaking down this organic matter.

In its original state, natural gas is odorless and colorless. Distribution companies add an odorant, mercaptan, so that it is easily detectable in the event of leaks. For easy storage, chilling it to extremely cold temperatures can liquefy natural gas.

Today, natural gas is delivered to more than 175 million American consumers through a 1.3 million mile network of underground pipe. A total of 285,000 producing natural gas wells, 125 natural gas pipeline companies, and more than 1,200 gas distribution companies provide gas service in all 50 states.