Natural gas: What are the uses?

Natural gas facilities

Consumers and homeowners alike know that natural gas is used to heat the majority of American homes. Approximately 51% of U.S. households are heated by natural gas, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). But natural gas is used as an energy source in more ways than one. From electricity generation to industrial and often-overlooked uses in our everyday lives, this clean fossil fuel has become one of our most important energy sources.

Natural Gas and Electrical Power

In 2012, 38% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. was used to generate electricity—that means nearly 10 of the 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas consumed went to powering homes and businesses all over the country.

Until recently, coal power plants generated the majority of the electricity in the U.S. by a large margin. Coal accounts for nearly 70% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted during the processes of generating electricity.

Because of this, the electricity industry has shifted toward natural gas power plants as a cleaner, more efficient alternative to coal power. In 2015, natural gas plants generated a third of the electricity that powered the U.S., an equal share with coal plants. While coal power plants are around 35% efficient, high-efficiency natural gas plants can operate at 50% efficiency—and produce far less CO2 in the process.

Natural gas also has the ability to generate heat and electricity at the same time through a process called “cogeneration.” Cogeneration systems are extremely efficient, harnessing over three-quarters of the natural gas used during the process, making its potential for the future even brighter.

Industrial Uses for Natural Gas

Natural gas has many other industrial uses beyond electricity generation and indirectly fuels some of the most important industries that affect Americans on a daily basis. As both a power source and a raw material, industrial uses for natural gas accounted for almost a third of all natural gas consumption in 2015, nearly equaling the amount of electricity consumed.

Without natural gas, hydrogen gas (H2) would be much more difficult to produce. H2 is used as one of the key ingredients when creating fertilizer. Natural gas is primarily methane, which reacts with high-temperature steam to create large amounts of H2. In addition to being used in ammonia, methanol, propane, and acetic acid, the hydrogen produced by natural gas can also be used to make fuel cells—yet another source of electric power.

Natural gas, which is often known as a source of residential heat, also plays an important role in the industrial process by providing heat for the production of everyday materials such as steel, cement, glass, bricks, and paper. On top of that, many of the polymers in plastics for things like electronics, bottles, and clothes are made using natural gas.

Switch to IGS Energy as Your Natural Gas Supplier

Natural gas plays an important part in the lives of every energy consumer in the U.S. IGS Energy is a trusted energy supplier providing natural gas to residential and business customers throughout the country. Learn more about how IGS can give you natural gas rates for your home or explore our solutions for small business and large company.

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