Natural gas is colorless, odorless fossil fuel gas that is prized for its cleanliness and its many uses – including energy. It is produced in much the same way as oil, and in fact is often produced in conjunction with oil.
Natural gas is a principal component of modern chemistry and, as such, plays a central role in our quality of life. It is an essential material in such products as propane, paints, fertilizer, plastics, antifreeze, dyes and medicines.
As one of the most versatile building blocks of our way of life, it is consumed by industry as both an energy source and a basic feedstock. Families and businesses depend on it for heating and cooling. It has increasingly been viewed as a dependable and clean transportation fuel, powering urban mass transportation systems reliably and safely. It also holds great promise as a reliable source of hydrogen. Few Americans go a day without its use in some form or fashion.
The most environmentally-friendly of the fossil fuels, natural gas provides 27 percent of our total energy supply and generates approximately 30 percent of our electricity.
Currently, US proven natural gas reserves are 305 trillion cubic feet, though experts believe North America is blessed with huge natural gas supply potential. In 2012, production of natural gas in the US was 24.0 trillion cubic feet (tcf) while demand was 25.5 tcf.
As demand for this energy source has been greater than domestic production, the US has been importing natural gas, principally from Canada via pipelines. We also import liquidified natural gas (LNG) which is transported by ship from overseas. Importing LNG requires special port facilities that can receive the gas that has been condensed using extremely cold temperatures – lower than -260 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the vast supplies of shale natural gas and the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to retrieve it, some producers in this country would like to export LNG and have requested government approval to do so. However, our production is mainly used either domestically or shipped via pipeline to Canada or Mexico.
Domestic production of natural gas is expected to increase by 38 percent by 2040 due to the vast supplies of shale gas, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, April 2013, http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/pdf/pages/sec1_7.pdf .
Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, April 2013, http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/pdf/pages/sec7_5.pdf .
Energy Information Administration, Natural Gas Reserves, http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_enr_sum_a_EPG0_R11_BCF_a.htm
Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, April 2013, http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/pdf/pages/sec4_3.pdf .
Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2013, http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/pdf/tbla14.pdf .