Natural gas is an abundant, domestically produced resource that reduces our nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources and creates a cleaner environment. Millennium is proud to safely deliver this natural gas to our customers and help meet the growing demand for this cleaner energy source.
While demand for natural gas is clearly growing, there are misconceptions about how it is extracted, transported and used. We’ve created this page to provide you with further information on how the natural gas industry works, and the benefits it delivers.
|About Natural Gas
Natural Gas is An Essential Part of America’s Energy Mix: Natural gas supplies nearly one-fourth of all of the energy used in the United States.
Nationwide Delivery System
Natural gas is delivered to customers through a safe, sound, 2.4-million mile underground pipeline system that includes 2.1 million miles of local utility distribution pipes and 300,000 miles of transmission lines.
Where Does Natural Gas Come From?
Most of the natural gas consumed in the United States is produced in the U.S. Canada provides much of the rest. 33 states are now producing or have produced natural gas.
In Alaska, huge quantities of natural gas found in the North Slope region are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the states total natural gas resources, but these supplies will remain stranded there until an Alaskan natural gas pipeline is built. Natural gas is the cleanest and most efficient fossil fuel.
Domestic natural gas supplies are abundant.
The extensive 2.1 million-mile underground natural gas delivery system has an outstanding safety record.
Regardless of the weather, you can depend on your natural gas utility to bring you America’s best energy value.
Natural gas provides environmental benefits: increased use gas can help address several environmental concerns simultaneously, including smog, acid rain and greenhouse gas emissions.
Natural gas utilities are important to the nation and its economy.
Natural gas utilities operate and maintain more than 2.1 million miles of safe, efficient underground pipes — an energy delivery system that is the envy of the world.
Your natural gas utility is your neighbor and your trusted energy partner.
Gas utilities serve more than 68 million residential customers and more than 5 million commercial enterprises.
Your local gas utility has an investment in and a commitment to your community. Many gas utilities have been serving their customers for more than a century.
Natural gas utilities are innovative and reliable, providing customers with a variety of services, products and — most important — America’s best energy value.
How is Natural Gas Formed?
Natural gas is made up of just two elements – carbon and hydrogen. It is part of a family of chemicals known as hydrocarbons, which also includes oil and gasoline. As its name suggests, natural gas comes out of the ground as a gas; oil, gasoline and other hydrocarbons are recovered mixed together in a liquid called crude oil.
All of the natural gas we use today began as microscopic plants and animals living in the ocean millions of years ago. As these microscopic plants and animals lived, they absorbed energy from the sun, which was stored as carbon molecules in their bodies. When they died, they sank to the bottom of the sea. Over millions of years, layer after layer of sediment and other plants and bacteria were formed.
As they became buried ever deeper, heat and pressure began to rise. The amount of pressure and the degree of heat, along with the type of biomass, determined if the material became oil or natural gas. Very high heat or biomass made predominantly of plant material produced natural gas.
After oil and natural gas were formed, they tended to migrate through tiny pores in the surrounding rock. Some oil and natural gas migrated all the way to the surface and escaped. Other oil and natural gas deposits migrated until they were caught under impermeable layers of rock or clay, where they were trapped. These trapped deposits are where we find oil and natural gas today.
Natural Gas Pipelines
The U.S. natural gas pipeline network is a highly integrated transmission and distribution grid that can transport natural gas to and from nearly any location in the lower 48 States.
How was natural gas formed?
The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, a gas (or compound) composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Millions of years ago, the remains of plants and animals (diatoms) decayed and built up in thick layers. This decayed matter from plants and animals is called organic material — it was once alive. Over time, the sand and silt changed to rock, covered the organic material, and trapped it beneath the rock. Pressure and heat changed some of this organic material into coal, some into oil (petroleum), and some into natural gas — tiny bubbles of odorless gas.
The search for natural gas begins with geologists, who study the structure and processes of the Earth. They locate the types of rock that are likely to contain gas and oil deposits.
Today, geologists’ tools include seismic surveys that are used to find the right places to drill wells. Seismic surveys use echoes from a vibration source at the Earth’s surface (usually a vibrating pad under a truck built for this purpose) to collect information about the rocks beneath. Sometimes it is necessary to use small amounts of dynamite to provide the vibration that is needed.
Scientists and engineers explore a chosen area by studying rock samples from the earth and taking measurements. If the site seems promising, drilling begins. Some of these areas are on land but many are offshore, deep in the ocean. Once the gas is found, it flows up through the well to the surface of the ground and into large pipelines.
Some of the gases that are produced along with methane, such as butane and propane (also known as “by-products”), are separated and cleaned at a gas processing plant. The by-products, once removed, are used in a number of ways. For example, propane can be used for cooking on gas grills.
Natural gas withdrawn from a well may contain liquid hydrocarbons and nonhydrocarbon gases. This is called “wet” natural gas. The natural gas is separated from these components near the site of the well or at a natural gas processing plant. The gas is then considered “dry” and is sent through pipelines to a local distribution company, and, ultimately, to the consumer.
Dry natural gas is also known as consumer-grade natural gas. In addition to natural gas production, the U.S. gas supply is augmented by imports, withdrawals from storage, and by supplemental gaseous fuels.
Most of the natural gas consumed in the United States is produced in the United States. Some is imported from Canada and shipped to the United States in pipelines. A small amount of natural gas is shipped to the United States as liquefied natural gas (LNG).
We can also use machines called “digesters” that turn today’s organic material (plants, animal wastes, etc.) into natural gas. This process replaces waiting for millions of years for the gas to form naturally.