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What is Natural Gas?

Natural gas, in itself, might be considered a very uninteresting gas - it is colorless, shapeless, and odorless in its pure form. Quite uninteresting - except that natural gas is combustible, and when burned it gives off a great deal of energy. Unlike other fossil fuels, however, natural gas is clean burning and emits lower levels of potentially harmful byproducts into the air. We require energy constantly, to heat our homes, cook our food, and generate our electricity. It is this need for energy that has elevated natural gas to such a level of importance in our society, and in our lives.

Natural gas is a combustible mixture of hydrocarbon gases. While natural gas is formed primarily of methane, it can also include ethane, propane, butane and pentane. The composition of natural gas can vary widely before it is refined.

Natural gas has many uses, residentially, commercially, and industrially. Found in reservoirs underneath the earth, natural gas is commonly associated with oil deposits. Production companies search for evidence of these reservoirs by using sophisticated technology that helps to find the location of the natural gas, and drill wells in the earth where it is likely to be found. Once brought from underground, the natural gas is refined to remove impurities like water, other gases, sand, and other compounds. Some hydrocarbons are removed and sold separately, including propane and butane. Other impurities are also removed, like hydrogen sulfide (the refining of which can produce sulfur, which is then also sold separately). After refining, the clean natural gas is transmitted through a network of pipelines, thousands of miles of which exist in the United States alone. From these pipelines, natural gas is delivered to its point of use. 

Naturally occurring natural gas was discovered and identified in America as early as 1626, when French explorers discovered natives igniting gases that were seeping into and around Lake Erie. The American natural gas industry got its beginnings in this area. In 1859, Colonel Edwin Drake (a former railroad conductor who adopted the title 'Colonel' to impress the townspeople) dug the first well. Drake hit oil and natural gas at 69 feet below the surface of the earth.

A Reconstruction of 'Colonel' Drake's First Well in Titusville, Pa

Source: API

Most in the industry characterize this well as the beginning of the natural gas industry in America. A two-inch diameter pipeline was built, running 5 and miles from the well to the village of Titusville, Pennsylvania. The construction of this pipeline proved that natural gas could be brought safely and relatively easily from its underground source to be used for practical purposes.

FAQ: A minute amount of odorant such as t-butyl mercaptan, with a rotting-cabbage-like smell, is added to the otherwise colorless and almost odorless natural gas, so that leaks can be detected before a fire or explosion occurs.

We thank www.naturalgas.org for much of our background information.

www.SaveOnUtilities.com. has been developing for months. But the actual construction of this site was begun on February 11, 2009.

The site will be THE comprehensive site for consumers, showing them the myriad of ways they can save on their utility expense.

This column will be available to those wishing to advertise their utility, their product, or their service. Contact us at: trimutilities@aol.com to arrange for your ad. The site will be substantially completed within a month, but if you wait until that moment, space may well be taken. This is the time to strike a deal for a bargain ad. We have posted the site early for this purpose.