The Story of Fossil Fuels, Part 3: Gas

The Story of Fossil Fuels, Part 3: Gas

A Fuel of Many Uses

You can find natural gas near oil, coal, and other rocks. It comes from the same natural processes that make coal and oil. It, too, comes from once-living things.

Humans have known about natural gas for a long time. Around 500 BCE, people in China used bamboo shoots to transport natural gas. They used it to boil water.

Boiling water.

A famous historian wrote about natural gas between 100 and 124 CE. That’s 1,900 years ago. This person wrote about flames burning from the ground of present-day Iraq. But even though people knew about it, it didn’t catch on as a major fuel source for some time.

Today, natural gas is often used for cooking and heating homes. It is one of the most important sources of energy in the world.

A Complicated Future

People once considered natural gas a problem. It was explosive and dangerous. Most oil and coal operations just burned it.

Now it is valuable. Natural gas is cleaner burning than either coal or oil. That means it causes less pollution. Many places have switched from burning coal to burning natural gas. That means many places want more of it.

Natural gas-powered bus.

Since more people want natural gas, people will get it however they can. One way to get natural gas is with something called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Fracking is expensive, but people want natural gas so much, they’ll use this method.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals into rocks to break them apart. This releases natural gas. Fracking helps people increase the amount of natural gas we can get.

Process of fracking.

Sadly, there are environmental concerns over fracking. People worry that these chemicals can get into drinking water.