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Properties of Natural Gas

Natural gas is a combustible gas that is a mixture of simple hydrocarbon compounds. It is a fossil fuel that contains primarily methane, along with small amounts of ethane, butane, pentane, and propane. Natural gas does not contain carbon monoxide. The by-products of burning natural gas are primarily carbon dioxide and water vapor.

Natural gas is a colorless, tasteless, odorless, and non-toxic gas. Because it is odorless, a powerful chemical called mercaptan is added to the gas, in very small amounts, to give the gas a distinctive smell of rotten eggs. This strong smell can be helpful in detecting the source of any gas leak.

Natural gas is about 40% lighter than air, so should it ever leak, it can dissipate into the air. Other positive attributes of natural gas are a high ignition temperature and a narrow flammability range, meaning natural gas will ignite at temperatures above 1,100 degrees and burn at a mix of 4 – 15% volume in air.

Natural gas is found in rocks beneath the earth’s surface, in sedimentary rock that is porous. Production companies explore, drill, and bring the natural gas to the surface. Transmission companies operate large pipelines that bring the gas from the production sites (“wellheads”) to “gate stations” where distribution companies, like Enbridge St. Lawrence Gas, bring the natural gas to homes and businesses through a network of underground pipelines.