What is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is a combustible, gaseous mixture of simple hydrocarbon compounds that is usually found accumulated inside deep underground reservoirs formed by porous rock. Natural gas is a fossil fuel composed almost entirely of methane although it does contain small amounts of other gases.
Facts about natural gas
- Natural gas is the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels. It burns with a blue flame when completely combusted which produces water and carbon dioxide.
- Natural gas is the ideal fuel. Its production doesn't disturb the surrounding area, and the site is quickly restored to its original state once production ends.
- Natural gas contains very few pollutants as it is extracted from the ground and the small amount of pollutants that do exist are removed before the gas enters the pipeline.
- It has no color, odor or taste. Mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs, is added to natural gas during distribution to give natural gas a distinct unpleasant odor. This acts as a safety device by allowing it to be detected in the atmosphere.
Where does natural gas come from?
More than three-quarters of the natural gas consumed in the United States is produced right here in the U.S. The balance comes to us via Canadian pipelines or via ship in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
To locate natural gas and remove it from the earth, geologic mapping, surveys, and aerial photographs are used. However, recent technology is helping find natural gas more accurately. Some of these methods include:
- Magnetic Measurement — a measure of the magnetic field of base rock to determine how much sediment is lying above it.
- Satellite Imagery — helps identify surface structures and patterns that aid in the search for probable underlying hydrocarbon deposits.
- Gravity Mapping — determines the thickness of the basin or sedimentary rock layer and helps identify base rock topography.
- Seismic Sound Wave Reflection — measures the time to various rock units that reflect acoustic energy.
Unconventional Sources of Natural Gas
“Conventional” gas production refers to the long-standing practice of drilling for natural gas that is "associated" (found in oil fields) or "non-associated" (isolated in natural gas fields found in high-permeability sandstone and carbonate rock formations).
But in the U.S. alone, there are estimates of trillions of cubic feet of potentially recoverable natural gas resources to be found in “unconventional sources” -- low-permeability, tight sandstones, gas shales and coal bed methane formations.
Our DTE Methane Resources subsidiary is producing 12 million cubic foot per day of pipeline quality gas from coal bed methane formations. The harmful greenhouse gases destroyed by this project are equal to the carbon removed from the atmosphere by more than 210,000 acres of pine forests.