What is Natural Gas?

​Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon consisting primarily of methane.

Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon consisting primarily of methane, but it may also contain small amounts of ethane, propane, butane and pentanes. This article provides a primer on understanding what methane is and why it matters. As natural gas flows out of the ground it may also contain sulphur compounds, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water and other substances. These compounds are removed from the natural gas at processing plants. To find out how industry is continually innovating ways to reduce methane emissions click here.


Exploration for natural gas began nearly 100 years ago. For most of that history, development has targeted easy to produce natural gas trapped in multiple, relatively small, porous zones in various naturally occurring rock formations such as carbonates, sandstones and siltstones. However, most of those more conventional reserves have been exhausted. Today, technological breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed for the production of natural gas from more difficult reservoirs such as tight and shale gas formations and coal bed methane. These developments have revolutionized the North American natural gas supply picture

Shale gas

Shale gas is natural gas found in very fine-grained sedimentary rock. The gas is tightly locked in very small spaces within the rock requiring advanced technologies to drill and stimulate (hydraulically fracture) the gas bearing zones. The creation of fractures within the reservoir is critical in allowing the natural gas to flow to the well. Once stimulated, the shale gas reservoirs are produced in the same way as other gas wells.

Offshore gas

Atlantic Canada is currently the only region producing oil and natural gas offshore. However, there is significant resource potential in Canada's Arctic and several companies currently hold exploration licences in the region. Atlantic Canada's offshore exploration, development and production industry is thriving with five producing projects, one development project and major exploration programs planned for the coming years.