Tell Me More Natural Gas Safety-SMART! Home

Natural Gas FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Need to write a report about natural gas? Or just want to know more about some aspect of natural gas that's caught your interest? You've come to the right place. Simply click on the questions below, and you'll be on your way!

  1. What's in natural gas?
    Natural gas found in the ground contains methane, ethane, propane, pentane, and traces of hexane and heptanes. Gas utilities remove almost everything but the methane so the natural gas delivered to your home will burn cleanly.

    Top of Page

  2. A Methane molecule shows 1 carbon atom and 4 smaller hydrogen atoms attached to itWhat is methane?
    Methane is a molecule made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Its chemical formula is CH4.

    Top of Page

  3. What makes natural gas a clean fuel?
    The main products released when natural gas is burned are carbon dioxide and water vapor. Coal and oil are more chemically complex than natural gas, so when burned they release a variety of potentially harmful chemicals into the air.

    Top of Page

  4. How much of our country's energy needs are served by natural gas?
    Natural gas supplies about 23 percent of all energy used in the United States. (Source: EIA Annual Energy Review 2009)

    Top of Page

  5. Are more homes heated by natural gas or electricity?
    More homes in the U.S. are heated by natural gas than by electricity.

    Top of Page

  6. Where in the United States is natural gas located?
    Natural gas is found in 33 states. The dark blue states on this map show you where large amounts of natural gas are extracted. In the medium blue states, moderate amounts of natural gas are extracted. And in the light blue states, just a little natural gas is extracted. Natural gas is not extracted at all in the white states.

    United States map

    A map of the U.S. shows in which states natural gas is found. Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming have large amounts of natural gas extracted. Moderate amounts of natural gas are extracted from Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Michigan, Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Just a little natural gas is extracted from Nevada, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinios, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania. No natural gas is extracted from Washington, Idaho, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine.

    Top of Page

  7. How much natural gas is produced in the world?

    Natural gas is found in about 50 countries. About 3,193 billion cubic meters of natural gas was taken out of the ground and processed for use in 2010. Here is a breakdown of how much of that was produced by various countries and regions:

    • Europe and Eurasia 32.6%
    • United States 19.3%
    • Asian and Pacific Countries 15.4%
    • Middle East 14.4%
    • Africa 6.5%
    • Canada 5.0%
    • Central and South America 5%
    • Mexico 1.7%

    (Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2011)

    Top of Page

  8. How much natural gas do we use?
    About 3,169 billion cubic meters of natural gas was used in the world in 2010. Here is a breakdown of how much of that was used by various countries and regions:


    • Europe and Eurasia 35.8%
    • United States 21.73%
    • Asian and Pacific Countries 17.9%
    • Middle East 11.5%
    • Central and South America 4.7%
    • Africa 3.3%
    • Canada 3%
    • Mexico 2.2%

    (Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2011)

    Top of Page

  9. How long will our natural gas supplies last?
    If natural gas production continues throughout the word at the level it did in 2010, the world's known gas reserves are expected to last about 59 years.

    (Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2011)

    Top of Page

  10. Why is natural gas used to run electric power plants?
    After coal, natural gas is the most commonly used fuel for electricity generation, producing about 23 percent of our country’s electricity supply. Natural gas burns very cleanly and results in far fewer emissions than coal or oil. Natural gas-fired power plants can start up and shut down very quickly, which means they can be switched on or off to maintain just the amount of electricity that is needed to meet demand.

    (Source: American Gas Association)


    Top of Page

  11. How many miles of natural gas pipelines are there in the U.S.?
    About 2.4 million miles of underground pipelines deliver natural gas to 70 million customers in the U.S. (Source: American Gas Association)

    Top of Page

  12. When was natural gas first used in the United States?
    The first widespread use of gas energy in the United States occurred in 1816, when gaslights illuminated the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.

    Top of Page

  13. Why does natural gas smell like rotten eggs?
    In its natural state, natural gas has no odor. Utility companies add a chemical odorant called "mercaptan" to natural gas to help make gas leaks easier to notice. If you have a natural gas stove, you may have smelled this rotten egg odor when the pilot light has gone out.

    Top of Page

  14. What is "liquefied natural gas?"
    When natural gas is cooled to 260 degrees below zero, it changes from a gas into a liquid. Liquid natural gas takes up much less space than natural gas, making it easy to transport and convenient to store. Six hundred cubic feet of natural gas turns into just one cubic foot of liquid gas!

    Top of Page

  15. What is a "smart pig?"
    A smart pig is an electronic device that can be used to inspect the insides of natural gas pipelines. The device travels through a pipeline and transmits images of the inside of the pipeline so inspectors can tell if the pipeline needs repairs.

    Top of Page

  16. How fast does natural gas move through pipelines?
    Natural gas travels through pipelines at the slow and steady pace of 15 miles per hour.


Next