Natural gas has quickly become our fuel of choice in the United States. It is an abundant resource and reduces our dependence on foreign fuel imports. Natural gas also burns cleaner than most other fossil fuels.
Natural gas is found alone or in conjunction with oil, coal, and shale. Most natural gas is produced for domestic use. Shale gas production increased dramatically between 2009 and 2013 and is now the primary source of natural gas production.
With natural gas playing such an important role in our energy profile, let’s look at how we use this important resource.
Natural Gas Uses
Natural gas usage can be broadly grouped into electric generation, industrial, residential, and commercial. Power plants use more natural gas than any other category. Natural gas has been steadily replacing coal and oil as the preferred fuel at power plants. For this reason, electricity rates tend to follow changes in natural gas prices. Natural gas also plays a significant role in manufacturing. Plastics, glass, building materials, and other goods use gas in their manufacturing processes. Commercial natural gas users range from office buildings to restaurants and other retail outlets.
These business customers use natural gas in a number of ways. Commercial buildings use gas in heating and cooling systems. They also use natural gas for water heating and cooking to a greater extent than industrial and residential customers do.
Natural Gas in the Home
Space heating and water heating are the primary uses of natural gas in our homes. Cooking and clothes drying use a relatively small amount of gas. As you might guess, space heating varies greatly due to climate. The New York- New Jersey- Pennsylvania region uses 2.5 times more natural gas for space heating than the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas-Louisiana region. Overall, home gas usage is declining as furnaces and water heaters become more fuel-efficient.
The next time you see natural gas in the news, keep in mind the critical role it plays in our lives. From keeping electricity rates low to providing essential needs like heating, natural gas is an important part of our national energy profile.