NATURAL GAS FAQs
Find answers to common questions from customers.
Natural gas found in the ground contains methane, ethane, propane, butane, pentane, and traces of hexane and heptanes. Gas utilities remove almost everything except the methane so the natural gas delivered to your home will burn cleanly.
Methane is a molecule made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Its chemical formula is CH4.
Natural gas is odourless, colourless, lighter than air and produces very few emissions. It is considered the cleanest fossil fuel because of its clean-burning qualities.
In its natural state, natural gas has no odour. PNG adds a chemical odourant called “mercaptan” to natural gas to help make gas leaks easier to detect.
Natural gas, when used properly, is a safe and convenient energy source. It has an enviable safety record because of several factors. Natural gas is non-toxic. The odourant that we add makes it easy to detect small leaks. Since natural gas is lighter than air, it dissipates quickly in a well-ventilated area. These factors, combined with the rigorous controls and safety standards that regulate the industry, make natural gas a safe energy choice.
PNG buys natural gas from a variety of suppliers. Western Canadian suppliers comprise the largest source of natural gas in Canada. The gas is then transported to our pipeline system through the Enbridge Inc. pipeline system. Through diversity of suppliers and a prudent mix of short and long-term gas supply contracts, we secure a reliable supply at a fair price.
The main products released when natural gas is burned cleanly are heat, carbon dioxide and water vapour. Wood, coal and oil are more chemically complex than natural gas, so when burned, they release a variety of potentially harmful chemicals into the air.
Natural gas is used to produce steel, glass, paper, clothing, brick, electricity and as an essential raw material for many common products. Some products that use natural gas as raw materials are: paints, fertilizer, plastics, antifreeze, dyes, photographic film, medicines and explosives.
Slightly more than half of the homes in North America use natural gas as their main heating fuel. Natural gas is also used in homes to fuel ranges and ovens, water heaters, clothes dryers and other household appliances.
Homeowners should have their furnace or central heating system inspected annually. Natural gas is a fossil fuel and when a heating system powered by a fossil fuel gets out of adjustment and the system isn’t operating properly, carbon monoxide may be produced. An annual check-up of your heating system by a qualified professional ensures it is operating safely and efficiently with the proper mix of fuel to air.
When natural gas is cooled to 260 degrees below zero, it changes from a gas into a liquid. Liquid natural gas takes up much less space than natural gas, making it easy to transport and convenient to store. Six hundred cubic feet of natural gas turns into just one cubic foot of liquid gas!
Natural gas is one of the cleanest-burning fossil fuels; complete combustion produces mainly water vapour and carbon dioxide. The amount of greenhouse gas released from natural gas is significantly lower than emissions from wood, coal and oil. When natural gas replaces these other fuels, emissions of greenhouse gases are significantly reduced.
The British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) regulates distribution of natural gas and the Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) regulates exploration, production, processing and transmission of natural gas within the province. The federal National Energy Board (NEB) regulates interprovincial trade in natural gas, approves transportation charges for interprovincial transportation and issues long-term licences and short-term orders (up to 24 months) authorizing exports from Canada.
The British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) regulates natural gas utilities in British Columbia, ensuring that the rates consumers pay are just and reasonable and that the service provided is safe and adequate. The BCUC is also required to regulate these utilities in ways that allow them to earn sufficient revenues to recover their costs, which includes a fair return on their investments. Therefore, in setting rates, the BCUC must balance the needs of consumers, along with the needs of utility companies.
Sour gas is natural gas containing more than one percent hydrogen sulphide (H2S), and in low concentrations, is identifiable by a strong ‘rotten eggs’ smell. It is commonly found in deep, high-pressure natural gas deposits such as those in the foothills of Rocky Mountain region.
H2S is toxic to humans and animals at very low concentrations. At concentrations between 10 – 750 ppm H2S becomes increasingly toxic. It is deadly to humans in concentrations of greater than 750 ppm. Most people can smell the distinctive ‘rotten eggs’ odour of the gas at concentrations between 0.1 and 0.3 ppm. At concentrations of 20 ppm or more, people may begin to experience slight discomfort in the eyes and nasal passages and workers are required to wear breathing apparatus. At higher levels, around 100 ppm, the gas becomes more dangerous because it quickly numbs the sense of smell. Health effects such as dizziness and slight respiratory difficulties begin with exposure for an hour at 150 ppm, and fatalities can result from exposure to levels above 750 ppm unless the person is immediately evacuated and resuscitated.
Primary responsibility for the integrity and safety of sour gas operations falls to the Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), which regulates oil and gas wells. The OGC regulates sour gas pipelines. The OGC has stringent regulations for sour oil and gas producing, processing and transportation.