Jul 05, 2011 by Alagasco

10 Things You May Not Know About Natural Gas

Chances are, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about natural gas, but around here, we’ve got CH4 (that’s the chemical symbol for methane, its primary component) on the brain almost every hour of the day.  But, you know, we’re a little bit obsessed.

That’s why we’ve been scratching our heads to come up with some cool things that might make you think a little more about natural gas, too. For instance, did you know that the Chinese were first using a natural gas flame to separate salt from water way back in 200 B.C.?  That was a new one for us, too, actually.  Here are ten other crazy, weird, interesting and just plain cool facts about natural gas that we hope will be new ones for you:

  1. Natural gas can be 100 million years old, and it comes from the decay of prehistoric creatures and plants. Almost all the gas we use today is a byproduct of plants and microscopic creatures that lived and died tens of millions of years ago. Time and pressure have turned them into fuel we can use today.

    The Bunsen burner, named after Robert Bunsen, produces a single open gas flame and can be used for heating, sterilization, and combustion.

  2. More than 85% of the natural gas used in the United States comes from this country. It’s pretty hard to ship natural gas across an ocean, and we have more than enough right here in America, so what we produce here, we use here.  
  3. Alabama is one of the top 15 natural gas producing states in the nation. Sure, you probably hear more about Pennsylvania and Texas, but Alabama pulls more than its share of the weight, too. We’ve pulled the better part of one trillion cubic feet of gas from our state. 
  4. Natural gas made the Bunsen burner possible. Without it, high school chemistry wouldn’t have been nearly as fun. And today, Robert Bunsen’s 1855 invention is used in labs around the world. Thanks, Robert!
  5. Alabama’s natural gas comes from the Black Warrior and Interior Salt Basins, where it’s locked up to three miles below the earth’s surface. It takes heat, pressure and time to form natural gas, and here in Alabama, that means we sometimes have to drill through 15,000 feet of earth and rock before we reach what we’re after.  
  6. More than half of all homes in the United States use natural gas. Simple as that. It’s a pretty important resource, and we’re using it to generate power, cook our food and heat our homes.

    Saturn's orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth.

  7. The ancient Greeks founded a temple to Apollo on top of a flaming natural gas vent. According to legend, in the eighth century BC, a wandering goat herder ran across a flame burning above a fissure in the earth. Assuming divine intent, the Greeks built the Oracle of Delphi on top of it for the priestess of the god Apollo.  
  8. Like water on Earth, oceans and rivers of natural gas exist on Saturn’s moon Titan. Of course, it has to be a little chillier there (almost 300 degrees below zero) to keep the methane from turning back into a gas, but all that liquid moving around makes Titan’s surface
    look a lot like Earth’s. It even has waves on its oceans.
  9. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel. Not only does natural gas produce fewer pollutants, it also emits less carbon. It’s the cleaner, better choice.
  10. The United States alone contains 2.6 quadrillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas. That’s enough to fill about 43 million NFL football stadiums, and to heat and power America for more than a century based on what we use today.

Do you have any interesting facts about natural gas to share?


Alagasco, your natural gas partner, provides clean, energy efficient natural gas to approximately 437,000 homes, businesses and industries in central and north Alabama. To report a gas leak, a line break, or any other gas service emergency, please call 1-800-292-4008. For other inquiries about your account, service or billing, you can reach us via email or phone.

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