Natural Gas vs. Gas: Similarities and Differences
For many consumers, both residential and commercial, understanding the difference between natural gas vs. gas (petrol) can be a bit confusing. After all, we often refer to natural gas as simply “gas” and if you don’t work in the energy industry, knowing the science behind your fuel may not matter – as long as you get the energy you need.
In this post, we will cover the basics of what natural gas and gas have in common and explain how these two very different fuels are unalike.
A Pair of Fossil Fuels
The most striking similarity between natural gas and gasoline is that both are fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are hydrocarbon-based materials that have formed naturally in the Earth’s crust and are derived from the remains of dead plants and animals. All fossil fuels are flammable and generate energy when burned, but natural gas emits far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based fossil fuels such as gasoline.
Another similarity between the two energy sources is that both commodities are traded on the open market and therefore subject to economic forces. The price of natural gas and gas will go up or down depending on the current supply and demand.
Natural Gas is Versatile
While gasoline remains the number one fuel for cars and other internal combustion engines, it cannot be used for heating or cooking. The misuse of gas can lead to explosions as it is highly flammable, and the fumes are dangerous to humans and animals, making it unsafe to burn in the home.
Natural gas can also be used in vehicles and internal combustion engines, but it can also be used for space heating, water heating, cooling, cooking and more.
While gasoline must be transported to consumers in its liquid form using tanker trucks, natural gas can be delivered using underground pipelines that are far more reliable and resilient.
Because natural gas can be compressed, it is far more efficient to transport large quantities of fuel over long distances, whether it is delivered through the piping network or using compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks. Natural gas is also easier to store, to better balance supply over the course of the year.
- Natural gas is 95% methane with 5% ethane, propane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen
- Gasoline is refined crude oil or petroleum liquid
While a small percentage of ethanol can be added to gasoline for a measure of sustainability, natural gas is available in a 100% renewable form. Renewable natural gas (RNG) can be captured from a wide range of sources, including agricultural waste, municipal landfills, wastewater treatment plants and any other organic waste facility.
RNG can be injected directly into the natural gas distribution system and used as fuel in any natural gas appliance or equipment. This makes natural gas a far more sustainable energy choice than petroleum-based fuels.
Two Important Fuels
Both natural gas and gasoline currently play important roles in the American economy and way of life, but as we move to a lower carbon cleaner energy future, natural gas will be a much larger part of our future energy mix.