Natural Gas - The Production Of Natural Gas, Transmission Of Natural Gas, Domestic Natural Gas Consumption, Natural Gas Prices
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Natural gas is an important source of energy in the United States. Methane, ethane, and propane are the primary constituents of natural gas, with methane making up 73 to 95% of the total.
The natural gas industry developed out of the petroleum industry. Wells drilled for oil often produced considerable amounts of natural gas, but early oilmen had no idea what to do with it. Originally considered a waste by-product of oil production, natural gas had no market, nor were transmission lines available to deliver it even if a use had been known. As a result, the gas was burned off, or flared. Pictures of southeast Texas in the early twentieth century show thousands of wooden drilling rigs topped with plumes of gas flaming like burning candles. Even today, flaring sites are sometimes the brightest areas visible in nighttime satellite images, outshining even the largest urban areas.
Nonetheless, researchers soon found ways to use natural gas. In 1925 the first natural gas pipeline, more than 200 miles long, was built from Louisiana to Texas. U.S. demand grew rapidly, especially after World War II. By the 1950s natural gas was providing one-quarter of the nation's energy needs. In the early 2000s natural gas was second only to coal in the share of U.S. energy produced. Crude oil was third. (See Table 1.1 in Chapter 1.) A vast pipeline transmission system connects production facilities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico with natural gas distributors. Figure 3.1 shows the production and consumption figures for natural gas for 2003. Figure 3.2 shows the pattern of natural gas supply and distribution in the United States in 2002.