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What Is Natural Gas? How Much Natural Gas Is Produced Each Year? Is Natural Gas a Renewable Resource?

Lyall Goes Back to Basics and Answers These and Other Commonly Asked Questions About the Natural Gas Industry

With all the changes surrounding government regulation and the energy industry, there’s been a lot of talk in the news these days about the oil and gas industry. Because of this, we thought it would be helpful to go back to the basics and answer some common questions about the energy products that are transported across the country in the pipelines we manufacture, starting with natural gas.

What Is Natural Gas?

Natural gas is a naturally occurring substance that lives deep within the ground under our feet. Chemically speaking, the United States Energy Information Office (EIA) describes natural gas as being made up primarily of methane, with trace amounts of hydrocarbon gas liquids and nonhydrocarbon gases. It is colorless, odorless and tasteless and is the product of organic plant and animal material that has been buried for millions of years under numerous layers of eroded materials including rocks and sand. Over time, pressure and heat transformed these organic deposits into various compounds – sometimes coal, sometimes petroleum and sometimes gas. The oil and gas industry uses various methods to locate the naturally occurring gas pockets and then extract the gas from the ground to use for fueling everything from homes to vehicles to the various machinery at work throughout the world each day.

How Much Natural Gas Is in the Ground in the U.S., and How Much Is Extracted Each Year?

According to NaturalGas.org, because it is impossible to know exactly how much natural gas is in the ground before it is tapped and resourced, the industry relies on estimates generated through various measurement techniques from several different interested parties. The EIA, which is widely referenced and considered one of the most reputable sources on the matter, estimates that as of January 1, 2015, there is approximately 2,355 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of technically recoverable natural gas in the United States. (The Unites States Geological Survey scientific agency defines “technically recoverable” as gas “that can be produced using currently available technology and industry practices. This is regardless of any economic or accessibility considerations.”) The EIA reports that the U.S. extracts approximately 27.3 Tcf each year, and at that rate of extraction, it estimates that the U.S. has enough natural gas to serve the current rate of consumption for the next 86 years.

Is Natural Gas a Renewable Resource?

Because it takes millions of years for buried organic matter to transform into oil or gas or coal, fossil-generated natural gas is considered a non-renewable resource. However, there is another type of biomethane natural gas – alternately called “biogas,” “renewable natural gas (RNG)” or “sustainable natural gas (SNG)” – which is renewable. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department describes this newer gas product as being pipeline-ready and interchangeable with natural gas. This gas is produced using biomass such as landfill waste, livestock operations, wastewater treatment and food manufacturing, among other resources. It is made through a biochemical process of anaerobic digestion or gasification.

This renewable gas is considered carbon-neutral, even though it produces the same pollutants as traditional natural gas, because the carbon dioxide produced is not being released by fossil fuels. The emissions are considered “offset” by the plants that absorbed a similar amount of carbon in their lifetime before being converted into biomethane. According to an informational web post from the University of Florida, “While combustion of biogas, like natural gas, produces carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, the carbon in biogas comes from plant matter that fixed this carbon from atmospheric CO2. Thus, biogas production is carbon-neutral and does not add to greenhouse emissions.”

Lyall Back to Basics – We Hope You’ve Enjoyed This Post

We hope you’ve found the information we’ve compiled in this blog post useful. For more information about Lyall’s natural gas pipeline products, visit our Gas Distribution Products page next.