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 What is Natural Gas?

 Natural gas is colorless and odorless in its pure form. Natural gas is combustible, and when burned it gives off a great deal of energy. Unlike other fossil fuels, however, natural gas is clean burning and emits lower levels of potentially harmful air pollutants. Since we require energy constantly, to heat our homes, cook our food, and generate our electricity, natural gas has been elevated to a high level of importance in our society, and in our lives.

Natural gas is a combustible mixture of hydrocarbon gases. While natural gas is formed primarily of methane, it can also include ethane, propane, butane and pentane. The composition of natural gas can vary widely, but below is a chart outlining the typical makeup of natural gas before it is refined.

Typical Composition of Natural Gas
Methane CH4 70-90%
Ethane C2H6 0-20%
Propane C3H8
Butane C4H10
Carbon Dioxide CO2 0-8%
Oxygen O2 0-0.2%
Nitrogen N2 0-5%
Hydrogen sulfide H2S 0-5%
Rare gases A, He, Ne, Xe trace
 Reference: Natural -

 In its purest form, such as the natural gas that is delivered to your home, it is almost pure methane. Methane is a molecule made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, and is referred to as CH4.

During most of the 19th century, natural gas was used almost exclusively as a source of light. Without a pipeline infrastructure, it was difficult to transport the gas very far, or into homes to be used for heating or cooking. Most of the natural gas produced in this era was manufactured from coal, as opposed to transported from a well. Near the end of the 19th century, with the rise of electricity, natural gas lights were converted to electric lights. This led producers of natural gas to look for new uses for their product.

In 1885, Robert Bunsen invented what is now known as the Bunsen burner. He managed to create a device that mixed natural gas with air in the right proportions, creating a flame that could be safely used for cooking and heating. The invention of the Bunsen burner opened up new opportunities for the use of natural gas in America, and throughout the world. The invention of temperature-regulating thermostatic devices allowed for better use of the heating potential of natural gas, allowing the temperature of the flame to be adjusted and monitored.