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A Natural Gas Primer

Karen Ostrander-Krug, Negotiating Natural Gas Contracts in the Order 636 Environment (1993)

Natural gas is one of our most important resources. Natural gas is composed principally of methane (CH4) and may well be the world's most abundant hydrocarbon, possibly exceeding the commercial energy resources of both coal and oil. It is a primary energy source for the mechanized industrial world. We use it to provide heat and produce energy to run machinery. The National Petroleum Council1 has recently estimated the natural gas resource base to be 1,300 TCF2 at a price of $3.50 per MCF or less, the Department of Energy estimates 1,188 TCF, the Potential Gas Committee 1,033 TCF and the Energy Information Administration 1,370 TCF. Though it is sometimes difficult to compare estimates because they are based on different definitions and categories of reserves, these estimates suggest a sufficient supply of natural gas to meet significantly increased demand for a minimum of 30 to 40 years.

The term “Natural Gas” is applied to gas produced from underground accumulations. The composition of natural gas varies from field to field. Most natural gas consists mainly of methane and other light hydrocarbons. In addition, it can include nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, water and other materials in varying proportion.

A. What is natural gas? Its composition.

Pure natural gas (methane) is made up of the chemical elements hydrogen and carbon. These compou