What do you know about natural gas? This fuel probably brings to mind the blue flame of a gas stove or furnace pilot light. You might associate it with warm clothes fresh from the gas dryer. But there’s much more to know about natural gas than the handful of ways it’s used in your home. Here are some fun facts to keep in mind the next time you use a gas-fired appliance.
- While propane gas is heavier than air, natural gas is lighter.
- When cooled to -260 degrees F, natural gas becomes a liquid.
- The natural gas dug out of the earth today was formed about 100 million years ago.
- In its pure state, natural gas is odorless. However, because of its potentially explosive nature, utility companies add mercaptan to the gas to give it a rotten egg smell. This doesn’t affect the fuel’s performance, but it makes it easier to pinpoint a gas leak.
- In the past decade, natural gas utilities have installed 30,000 miles of plastic pipelines per year. In total, more than 2.5 million miles of pipeline transport natural gas across the US. That’s enough to get to the moon and back five times!
- In about 500 BC, the Chinese discovered places where natural gas seeped to the surface. They formed crude pipelines from bamboo shoots to transport the gas, using it to boil seawater. This separated the water from the salt, making the water palatable and providing salt to season food.
- Natural gas was first used for cooking in Persia starting in the first century AD. Since pipes didn’t exist yet, the king of Persia built his royal kitchen next to a natural gas fissure to use as his own personal stove.
- Britain was the first country to commercialize natural gas. In the late 1700s, natural gas was used to illuminate homes and street lamps. Baltimore, Maryland became the first city in the US to use natural gas street lamps in 1816.
- More than 72 million US customers rely on natural gas every day, including more than 66 million households. The average home uses about 196 cubic feet of natural gas every day.
- Nine out of 10 chefs prefer to cook on natural gas stoves. Even heat distribution and accurate temperature control make for more evenly cooked food.
- Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available today, making it a more environmentally friendly choice than oil or coal. It’s also extremely efficient, delivering an average direct use efficiency of 92 percent.
- Special “digester” machines turn organic materials such as plants and animal waste into natural gas. This type of recycling turns trash into energy and replaces the need to wait millions of years for natural gas to form deep in the earth.
- Natural gas costs less than electricity, so households that use gas-powered furnaces, water heaters, stoves, and dryers spend hundreds of dollars less per year than homes with electric appliances.
- Many people are surprised to learn that natural gas can be used to produce electricity. It’s a cleaner option than coal-produced electricity, emitting about 54 percent fewer greenhouse gases to generate the same amount of electricity.
Historical Facts About Natural Gas
Natural Gas Uses, Efficiency, and Cost
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