When any Walton Gas customer turns on a gas range to make dinner or switches on the furnace for heat, you’re doing what people in 62 million other American homes do daily: You’re using natural gas.
In fact, the U.S. consumes more natural gas than any other nation in the world.
Like all energy fuels, that natural gas has to come from somewhere. Using information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), here is a short look at how natural gas gets from deep in the ground to Walton Gas customers.
Locating Natural Gas
Natural gas is a fossil fuel. Like other fossil fuels such as coal and oil, it forms deep below the Earth’s surface.
The search for natural gas begins with geologists who locate the types of rock that are likely to contain natural gas deposits. Some of these areas are on land and some are offshore and deep under the ocean floor. Natural gas deposits are often found near oil deposits.
FAST FACT: Texas is the top producer of natural gas among U.S. states.
Mining Natural Gas
In the United States and a few other countries, natural gas is produced directly from shale and other types of rock formations that contain natural gas in pores within the rock. Once a likely deposit of natural gas is located, it is commonly extracted by drilling a well vertically into rock formations.
FAST FACT: Currently, there are 553,495 natural gas wells in the U.S.
Gas trapped in the formations is released and flows up the well to the surface. Newly mined natural gas is called wet natural gas because it usually contains liquid hydrocarbons and non-hydrocarbon gases.
Extracting natural gas from deposits isn’t always easy. Any number of factors in the underground environment can make mining it a challenge.
In the past, it was common to recover as little as 10 percent of the available gas in a deposit. Today, enhanced recovery techniques are used to bring as much as 60 percent of the gas to the surface.
Methane and other useful gases are separated from the wet natural gas near the site of the well or at a natural gas processing plant. The processed natural gas is called dry or consumer-grade natural gas.
Distributing Natural Gas
Natural gas is sent to underground storage fields or to distribution companies through pipelines ranging from 2 to 60 inches in diameter.
FAST FACT: Most of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. is also produced in the U.S.
The continental United States has more than 210 pipeline systems that transfer gas to all 48 states. This system requires more than 1,400 compressor stations to ensure that the gas continues on its path, 400 underground storage facilities, 11,000 locations to deliver the gas and 5,000 locations to receive the gas.
Now, the next time you’re relaxing in a toasty warm house heated by natural gas, you’ll know where it comes from.