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What is Natural Gas?

10 July 2013

Time to get back to the basics folks! What is natural gas and how do we use it?

Where does it come from?

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, which means it is found deep underground in ancient rock formations. A mining technique called hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, has led to a recent natural gas boom. Fracking uses sand and water to fracture shale rock and loosen up natural gas. Natural gas is often found with and in proximity to petroleum, which we know better as gasoline (source).

What is it made of?

Once processed for use in our homes, natural gas is almost purely methane. There is also an added chemical called mercaptan that creates the “rotten egg” smell to alert people to a gas leak. Natural gas is one of the cleanest fossil fuels, burning less carbon dioxide (CO2) per joule (a unit of energy) than both oil and coal. However, it still contributes to human CO2 emissions. In 2004 natural gas accounted for 5.3 billion tons of CO2 a year; coal and oil  produced 10.6 billion and 10.2 billion a year respectively (source).

How do we use it?

Currently 24% of U.S. energy demand is met by natural gas (source). 68% of Minnesota homes use natural gas to heat their home (source) and most homes use natural gas to run appliances such as stoves, water heaters and clothes dryers.

Discover your use.

CenterPoint energy has done a great job of allowing customers to track their natural gas use. Create an online profile to start tracking your own home.

Learn more about natural gas through the Energy Information Administration.

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