According to the projections prepared by the United States Department of Energy (USDOE), demand for natural gas during 1998-2020 will grow at an average annual rate of 3.2%. As a result of this growth, in 1999, natural gas became the second most important energy source in the world, replacing coal in that position and remaining there, as the second world energy source, during the period projected by the USDOE.
The engine driving the growing demand for natural gas is the increase in the generation of electricity based on the technology used at combined-cycle power stations. These stations have pointed in a new direction toward the use of natural gas.
Natural gas is preferred by all sectors in society because it produces no ash and it does not release solid particles into the atmosphere. It produces fewer emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and reactive hydrocarbons. Furthermore, it produces practically no sulfur dioxide (SO2). These characteristics give it a greater advantage over other fossil fuels such as coal and fuel oil.
Natural Gas accounts for 24 percent of all energy used in the United States with 62 million commercial, industrial, and residential customers. About 58 million homes, 61 percent of the total, use natural gas for heating.
U.S. total reserves are 1,779 trillion cubic feet. Demand is 22 trillion cubic feet annually, and expected to grow to 29 trillion cubic feet a year by 2010 and 31.5 trillion cubic feet by 2015.
Uses include electricity generation, residential and commercial heating, feedstock for chemical and fertilizer industries, and transportation.
Environmentally, natural gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels. When burned, it is 50 percent cleaner than oil, and 85 percent cleaner than coal in terms of air pollution, emitting less nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, soot, hydrocarbons, and heat trapping greenhouse gasses.
Sources: American Gas Association, Energy Information Administration, And National Petroleum Council.