Natural gas is a multi-purpose energy source that takes several forms. We are familiar with its common uses in homes that include heating and cooling air, providing gas for ovens, stoves, barbeque grills and fire pits, furnaces, and laundry dryers.
What are the Different Uses of Natural Gas Outside Your Home?
Natural gas is just as important in commercial and industrial applications as it is in homes. Here are some of its most significant uses:
According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), natural gas was the largest source – accounting for about 38% – of US electricity generation in 2019. Used mainly in steam turbines and gas turbines, it has overtaken coal as the leading source of energy generation.
Natural gas is used both as raw material and as a source of heat in a wide variety of manufacturing processes. About 31% of the consumption of natural gas in the US is by industries. It is used as a heat source in melting, drying, baking, or glazing products. Some of the commodities it is widely used in are glass, steel, cement, bricks, ceramics, tile, paper, and food products.
Natural gas is used to manufacture a wide range of chemicals such as ammonia, methanol, ethane, butane, propane, and acetic acid. It is also an ingredient used to make fertilizer, plastics, antifreeze, fabrics, and pharmaceuticals.
While petroleum is the dominant source of energy in the transportation industry, being used by 92% of total US vehicles, other sources including natural gas are being introduced to counter our over-dependence on petroleum products. Right now, natural gas accounts for 3% of usage in vehicles, higher than electricity. Vehicles using natural gas emit 60-90% less smog-producing pollutants and up to 40% less greenhouse gas emissions. It also costs less per mile to operate a vehicle that uses natural gas versus vehicles using traditional fossil fuels.
The use of natural gas in commercial buildings is similar to its uses in homes particularly for heating buildings and water, operating refrigeration and cooling equipment, drying clothes, cooking, providing outdoor lighting, and as fuel in heat and power systems. In the US, the commercial sector accounts for about 12% of total natural gas consumption.
We can expect natural gas usage to grow even more in the future because of its advantages over other fossil fuels. It is more environmentally friendly, less expensive, safer and easier to store.