Natural gas is a type of fossil fuel that largely consists of methane gas and other flammable hydrocarbons. The formation of natural gas occurred through the buildup of plant and animal remains, in addition to sand and silt that have built up under heat and pressure over millions of years. This organic material forms various types of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. However, natural gas also tended to move into large cracks and spaces within rock layers and can also be found in tiny pores within sedimentary rock formations.
Natural gas is found in reservoirs underneath the Earth and is made up of compounds of hydrogen and carbon. Once removed from an underground reservoir, the natural gas is transferred to a gas processing plant to remove impurities and by-products. Some of these by-products are ethane, propane, butane, and sulfur. Methane and other useful gases are often separated from natural gas to be further used for other purposes. The processed gas, called dry or consumer-grade natural gas, is sent through pipelines in the United States and stored in underground fields or towards distribution companies that send the gas to consumers.
The world population requires energy at an ever increasing amount for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. The amount of natural gas that lies deep within the Earth will meet much of the world’s needs for many decades and the abundance of natural gas in North America has made it economically viable to extract for energy demands. However, the use of natural gas has faced opposition as it is a non-renewable resource and hydraulic fracturing, the process used to extract it, has been found to have severe environmental impacts. Natural gas is one of the least expensive forms of energy available in the United States. Most of the natural gas consumed in the United States is also produced domestically. U.S. natural gas reserves are concentrated primarily around Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. The United States was the largest producer of natural gas worldwide in 2016, extracting almost 750 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Currently, natural gas is the second most heavily consumed energy source in the United States. In 2016, some 28.4 quadrillion British thermal units of energy derived from natural gas were consumed here.
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