Whether you work in the natural gas industry, consume natural gas as a homeowner, or power your restaurant or business with the blue flame, there is always something new to learn about natural gas. Here are ten fun facts about natural gas for the curious mind.
Wow, That is Old
Most of the natural gas we extract from the Earth today was formed about 100 million years ago.
But not all natural gas is old!
Renewable natural gas (RNG) is produced and captured at wastewater treatment plants, agricultural facilities, landfills, and anywhere organic matter can be digested.
Easy to Store
Just like any other gas, natural gas can be cooled into a liquid state. At negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit, natural gas liquifies and can be bottled for long-term storage. Liquid natural gas provides an incredible 615 times the volume of fuel when converted back to its gaseous form.
There are Over 900 Public Gas Systems in the U.S.
But do you know which was the first?
Founded in 1836, the city of Philadelphia built the first municipally owned natural gas distribution company. Today, the Philadelphia Gas Works is still in operation. It is also the largest public gas system in the country.
According to the U.S. Department of energy, as of 2023, natural gas powers 175,000+ vehicles in the United States and approximately 23 million vehicles around the world.
Natural Gas is Odorless
The scent of natural gas has long been synonymous with the stench of rotten eggs – but did you know that natural gas smells like nothing at all?
When you catch a whiff of that lost Easter egg from last year, what you are really smelling is called mercaptan. Mercaptan is a colorless gas with a foul odor that is added to natural gas prior to delivery for safety reasons. Because of mercaptan, even the slightest natural gas leak can be detected in an instant.
To the Moon and Back
The global natural gas distribution system is so extensive that the sum of all natural gas pipelines in the world would reach to the moon and back. Three times!
Natural Gas in Ancient Times
Human use of natural gas dates to around 1,000 B.C. in ancient Greece. The famous Oracle at Delphi, on Mount Parnassus, was built over a flame kept alight by natural gas seeping from the ground.
In China, 500 years later, people began to use crude bamboo “pipelines” to transport gas used in fires to distill seawater for drinking.
Britain was the First Country to Commercialize Natural Gas
Around 1785, natural gas produced from coal was delivered to houses and streetlamps in Britain to power lighting. Three decades later, Baltimore, Maryland used the same technology to become the first city in America to light its streets with gas.
The Cleanest Fossil Fuel
When burned, natural gas produces less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal.
So Many Jobs
According to the American Gas Association, the natural gas industry supports more than four million jobs in the United States alone. In addition, the affordability of gas frees up cash flow at businesses to drive growth and create even more employment and a stronger economy for everyone.