Uses for Natural Gas
Natural gas is mostly methane, but also contains other compounds such as ethane, propane, butane and pentanes – these are called natural gas liquids (NGLs). Natural gas may also contain sulphur compounds, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water and other substances.
Canada’s Natural Gas Use
Today about one third of Canada’s entire energy needs are met by natural gas. Natural gas is burned as a fuel for heating, cooking and electricity. In fact, it currently provides about 13% of Canada’s electricity generation. Natural gas is also used in energy-efficient furnaces and appliances, such as your water heater and clothes dryer. As well, cook ranges, barbecues and natural gas fireplaces continue to grow in popularity.
Using Natural Gas as a Transportation Fuel
Vehicles powered by liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas produce less emissions than cars with either gasoline or diesel in the tank. There are more than 20,000 natural gas vehicles in Canada, according to Natural Resources Canada.
Using natural gas as a transportation fuel has many benefits including:
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10-25% (Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance)
- Fuel cost savings of up to 30 – 40% per kilometer.
- Quieter vehicles providing less noise in urban settings.
Natural gas has less energy by volume than diesel fuel so it must be compressed or liquefied to store enough energy for adequate driving range. Because it can be delivered quickly and affordably, natural gas is also an excellent partner for intermittent renewable power sources, such as wind and solar.
Natural Gas Uses in Agriculture
While not as obvious to some, natural gas is used in many aspects of farming, from growing food, harvesting it, and in its delivery.
Not only is natural gas used in the manufacturing of fertilizers, but in more and more cases, fertilizers are made of anhydrous ammonia, which is made from natural gas. Anhydrous ammonia contains nitrogen, an important ingredient that help farmers replenish soil nutrients.
Natural gas is used in some farm equipment as a power source.
Natural gas is an efficient source of energy for irrigation systems that water large areas of farmland. Even farms that generally rely on electricity may use natural gas as a back up, ensuring the irrigation of crops even on days when power goes down.
Natural gas is often used to power the heating systems in greenhouses to help grow many of the fruits and vegetables Canadians eat daily.
Natural gas is used in many of the trucks and ships that deliver our food from place to place, both locally and globally.
Canadian Success Stories
A number of Canadian companies have fleets using natural gas including:
- BC Ferries – in 2017, BC Ferries introduced new vessels capable of running on liquefied natural gas and producing fewer emissions.
- Robert Trucking – natural gas fuels 15% of their transport fleet that travel between Ontario and Quebec along the Highway 401 and Autoroute 20 corridor.
- Calgary Transit – in 2013, the City of Calgary introduced natural gas buses into its public transit fleet.
- Waste Management – Waste Management is the largest operator of natural gas refuse collection trucks in North America with a fleet of more than 2,000 trucks.
- Enbridge Gas Distribution – Enbridge operates more than 600 natural gas vehicles in Canada.