According to the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas consumption accounted for 34% of the nation’s total energy usage for 2020. In this post, we’ll break down how consumption divided out across the five primary sectors and cover the most common applications in each sector.
Given that approximately half of all homes in America burn natural gas for space heating, hot water, cooking and drying clothes, it is somewhat surprising to see that just 15% of the total natural gas consumption can be attributed to the residential sector. Both the industrial sector and electric power sector each accounted for more than double the usage of the residential sector.
Electric Power Sector
At 38%, the electric power sector was the number one consumer of natural gas in 2020. It’s important to distinguish that the electric power sector only includes the production of electricity for the purpose of selling the energy to other sectors. Electricity is also produced via natural gas burn in both the industrial and commercial sectors, with the distinction being that the power is produced for in-house consumption and not for sale on the open market.
Industrial and Commercial Sectors
The industrial and commercial sectors accounted for 33% and 10% of total usage respectively. In addition to electricity generation, other industrial applications include process heating and other chemical processes to produce fertilizer, hydrogen, along with equipment fuel.
Similar to the residential sector, commercial sector applications include heating buildings and water, along with cooking and drying, but while natural gas is not a commonly used fuel for cooling in the home, many commercial refrigeration systems rely on natural gas consumption.
Transportation sector consumption includes the operation of the compressors that transport natural gas through the underground distribution pipeline and the fueling of natural gas powered vehicles. At present, almost all vehicles powered by compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas belong to government agencies or large privately-owned fleets. Just 3% of total US natural gas usage comes from the transportation sector.