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For Kids > Tell Me More > Natural Gas FAQs
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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?
  2. What is methane?
  3. What makes natural gas a clean fuel?
  4. How much of our country's energy needs are served by natural gas?
  5. Are more homes heated by natural gas or electricity?
  6. Where in the United States is natural gas located?
  7. How much natural gas is produced in the world?
  8. How much natural gas do we use?
  9. How long will our natural gas supplies last?
  10. Why is natural gas used to run electric power plants?
  11. How many miles of natural gas pipelines are there in the U.S.?
  12. When was natural gas first used in the United States?
  13. Why does natural gas smell like rotten eggs?
  14. What is "liquefied natural gas?"
  15. What is a "smart pig?"?
  16. How fast does natural gas move through pipelines?
  1. What's in natural gas?
    Natural gas found in the ground contains methane, ethane, propane, butane, 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.

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  2. What is methane?
    Methane is a molecule made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Its chemical formula is CH4.

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  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.

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  4. How much of our country's energy needs are served by natural gas?
    Natural gas supplies about 24 percent of all energy used in the United States.

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

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  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.



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  7. How much natural gas is produced in the world?
    Natural gas is found in about 50 countries. About 2,600 billion cubic meters of natural gas was taken out of the ground and processed for use in 2003. Here is a breakdown of how much of that was produced by various countries and regions:

    • United States 21.0%
    • Canada 7.0%
    • Mexico 1.4%
    • Central and South America 4.5%
    • Europe and Eurasia 17.0%
    • Russian Federation 22.1%
    • Middle East 9.8%
    • Africa 5.4%
    • Asian and Pacific Countries 11.9%

    (Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2004)

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  8. How much natural gas do we use?
    About 2,600 billion cubic meters of natural gas was used in the world in 2003. Here is a breakdown of how much of that was used by various countries and regions:

    • United States 24.3%
    • Canada 3.4%
    • Mexico 1.8%
    • Central and South America 4.2%
    • Europe and Eurasia 26.1%
    • Russian Federation 15.7%
    • Middle East 8.6%
    • Africa 2.6%
    • Asian and Pacific Countries 13.3%

    (Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2004)

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  9. How long will our natural gas supplies last?
    If natural gas production continues throughout the world at the level it did in 2003, the world's gas reserves are expected to last about 67 years. (Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2004)

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  10. Why is natural gas used to run electric power plants?
    In the 1970s and 1980s, most electric power plants were fueled by coal or nuclear power. But due to environmental concerns, by the 1990s, about 60 percent of new electric power plant capacity was fueled by natural gas. Today natural gas is the primary energy source for powering new electricity generating plants in the U.S because it is a clean-burning and competitively priced fuel. (Source: American Gas Association)

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  11. How many miles of natural gas pipelines are there in the U.S.?
    About 2.2 million miles of underground pipelines deliver natural gas to 68 million customers in the U.S. (Source: American Gas Association)

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

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  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.

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  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!

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  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.

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  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.
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