Frequently Asked Questions
Q.What Is natural gas?
A.Natural gas is an abundant, naturally occurring gas. Natural gas is found deep beneath the earth’s surface, in large pockets that are located inside porous rock. It is called a fossil fuel because scientists believe it to have been created by the gradual decomposition of ancient organic fossil matter, such as plants and tiny sea animals. Layers of this organic matter built up over time until the pressure and heat from the earth “cooked” this mixture into natural gas.
The principal chemical ingredient of natural gas is methane. Very small amounts of other gases also are contained in natural gas, including ethane, propane, butane and pentane.
Q.How is natural gas used?
A.Natural gas is used extensively in residential, commercial and industrial applications. It is the dominant energy used for home heating with slightly more than one half of American homes using gas. Overall, more than 66 million homes use natural gas. The use of natural gas is also rapidly increasing in electric power generation and cooling.
Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, producing primarily carbon dioxide, water vapor and small amounts of nitrogen oxides. Other fossil fuels are coal and oil, which together with natural gas, account for about 88 percent of U.S. energy consumption.
Q.What are the properties of natural gas?
A.Natural gas is odorless and colorless and produces very few emissions. It is considered the cleanest fossil fuel because of its clean-burning qualities.
Q.Where does natural gas come from?
A.The prevailing scientific theory is that natural gas was formed millions of years ago when plants and tiny sea animals were buried by sand and rock. Layers of mud, sand, rock and plant and animal matter continued to build up until the pressure and heat from the earth turned them into petroleum and natural gas.
Q.When was natural gas first used?
A.The first use of gas energy in the United States occurred in 1816, when gaslights illuminated the streets of Baltimore, Md. By 1900, natural gas had been discovered in 17 states. During the years following World War II, expansion of the extensive interstate pipeline network occurred, bringing natural gas service to customers all over the country.
Q.How is natural gas measured?
A.Natural gas, like other forms of heat energy, is measured in British thermal units or Btu. One Btu is equivalent to the heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at atmosphere pressure. A cubic foot of natural gas has about 1,027 Btu. Natural gas is normally sold from the wellhead in the production field to purchasers in standard volume measurements of thousands of cubic feet (Mcf). However, Riviera Utilities gas rates are designed to bill customers for usage in Hundred Cubic Feet (CCF).
Q.What are the segments of the natural gas industry and how many are there?
A.There are three segments of the natural gas industry which are involved in delivering natural gas from the wellhead to the consumer. Production companies explore, drill and extract natural gas from the ground. Transmission companies operate the pipelines that link the gas fields to major consuming areas.
Distribution companies are the local utilities that deliver natural gas to the customer.
Q.How is natural gas used in the market?
A.About 33 percent of natural gas delivered to U.S. consumers is used in the industrial sector, providing energy for everything from mining minerals to processing food. Generating electricity consumes about 31 percent. Another 15 percent is used in the commercial market -- for heating and cooling office buildings, hospitals and schools, and for cooking in restaurants. Most of the remaining amount -- about 22 percent -- is used in the residential market, providing energy for home heating, hot water, cooking, clothes drying and air conditioning.
Q.What are the uses of natural gas?
A.The natural gas delivery system brings natural gas to about 70 million homes and businesses in all 50 states. Natural gas has become the most popular energy used for home heating: about 58 million American homes use natural gas because of its comfort, ease of use and efficiency. Because of its environmental advantages due to low emissions, the use of natural gas is also rapidly increasing in electric power generation and cooling and as a transportation fuel.
Q.How safe is natural gas?
A.According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the natural gas delivery system has the best safety record of any energy delivery system. Improvements in technology and materials have contributed to a steady decline in natural gas pipeline-related incidents. In fact, from 1991 to 2004, the number of incidents on natural gas distribution pipelines decreased by more than 25 percent–yet the amount of natural gas traveling through the delivery system increased by 30 percent, and an additional 650,000 miles of pipeline were added to the system.
Alabama Currents - Latest Issue