Natural Gas Has Wide Impact

Article excerpt

The price of natural gas has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, a remarkable decline for a commodity that not long ago was believed to be in short supply.

Here's more about what natural gas is, what it is used for, who makes it and where it comes from:

HISTORY

Natural gas seeps baffled early civilizations, and likely inspired the Ancient Greeks to build the shrine known as the Oracle of Delphi. In the U.S., the natural gas industry was launched in 1859 when Edwin Drake struck oil and gas in Titusville, Pa. Natural gas prices were regulated for most of the last century. It wasn't until 1993 that the last of the federal price controls were lifted.

WHAT IS IT?

When natural gas is pulled from the ground, it is 70 percent to 90 percent methane, a simple molecule of carbon and hydrogen that is the most abundant organic molecule on earth. Methane is what gets delivered to home-owners. But the natural gas that comes out of the earth also contains some ethane, propane, butane and other hydrocarbons. These other hydrocarbons are separated from the methane and sold to chemical companies and other industrial users.

ORIGINS OF A GLUT

As recently as five years ago, natural gas was thought to be in short supply in the U.S.

Then engineers learned to drill horizontally into shale formations and inject millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to break open rock and free the natural gas trapped inside. Enormous reserves of gas that were suddenly economical to produce were found in the East, Southeast, Midwest and West. …