Natural gas is one of the principle sources of energy for many of our nation’s day-to-day needs and activities.
Washington state relies heavily on natural gas produced in Canada and transported by pipelines to U.S. markets. Canada’s Sumas Center, near the border between Washington and British Columbia, is the principal natural gas trading and transportation hub for the Pacific Northwest.
The Northwest Pipeline Corp. system supplies markets in western Washington and Oregon, and a Gas Transmission Northwest line supplies the eastern part of the two states. The residential sector leads Washington’s natural gas consumption, followed closely by the industrial and electric power generating sectors. Roughly one-third of Washington households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Natural gas is primarily methane and is colorless and odorless in its pure form. It is combustible, and when burned it gives off a great deal of energy. Natural gas is clean burning compared to most other fossil fuels, emitting lower levels of potentially harmful byproducts into the air. Natural gas can also include ethane, propane, butane and pentane.
Natural gas has many residential, commercial and industrial uses. It is commonly found in reservoirs within the earth, often near oil and coal deposits.
Natural gas is refined to remove impurities like water, other gases and sand. Some hydrocarbons are removed and sold separately, including propane and butane. Hydrogen sulfide can be removed and refined to produce sulfur, a marketable product.
After refining, clean natural gas is transmitted through a network of transmission and distribution pipelines often thousands of miles in length. Smaller lines further distribute the natural gas to homes, businesses and industry.