The earliest information about natural gas comes from China where natural gas was used as far back as 900 AD. The Chinese piped natural gas through hollow bamboo tubes from pockets escaping through the earth’s surface and used it to “cook” brine and make salt.
Natural gas, like oil, is primarily a mixture of compounds of carbon and hydrogen. In natural gas the simplest hydrocarbon – methane – is dominant, making up over 90% of the total volume. Natural gas may also have small amounts of other hydrocarbons such as ethane, propane and butane and some contain traces of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water.
Only drilling can determine whether there are any or enough hydrocarbons for commercial production. Once a the reservoir is tapped, natural pressure forces the natural gas up the well bores to surface facilities where certain components, like carbon dioxide and liquids, are removed in gas processing plants before the natural gas is ready for sale.
The journey begins at natural gas processing plants and the natural gas then moves from producers to storage facilities and markets through high-pressure steel transmission pipelines. Connecting pipelines to major customers and distribution centres operate at lower pressures as they approach major urban centres. Operating at progressively lower pressures, distribution mains take over along sub-urban streets. Finally, service pipes connect individual customers through meter sets.