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 8.5% of Canada’s electricity generation (Source: NRCan, 2020). Natural gas is also used in energy-efficient furnaces and appliances, such as your water heater. As well, cook ranges, barbecues and natural gas fireplaces continue to grow in popularity.
Uses of Natural Gas
Natural gas is an important part of Canada’s energy resources. More than six million Canadians use natural gas to light, heat and cool homes and businesses, to heat water, and for cooking (Source: Canada Energy Regulator).
Natural Gas for Heating
Natural gas is the principal household energy source for Albertans (77%). Elsewhere, natural gas made up 70% of household energy use in Saskatchewan, 58% in Ontario, 52% in British Columbia, and 49% in Manitoba. (Source: Statistics Canada)
Many remote communities do not have direct access to infrastructure that would enable use of natural gas for home heating – making petroleum fuels like heating oil, diesel and propane absolutely essential.
Natural gas is often used to heat greenhouses to help grow many of the fruits and vegetables Canadians eat daily.
Natural Gas for Electricity Generation
Natural gas can be used to generate electricity. It’s essential in places that don’t have access to hydro or other forms of electricity generation and natural gas is a reliable backup for renewable but intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar. About 80% of Alberta’s electricity was generated from burning coal but the province’s electricity grid is set to be coal-free by the end of 2023. (Source: Alberta.ca/climate)
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, 2015.
Using natural gas as a transportation fuel has many benefits including:
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10-25%
- Typically 10 to 20 % less expensive than diesel and gasoline
- Quieter vehicles providing less noise in urban settings
Source: Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance, 2022
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 Fertilizers
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 as a Feedstock for Petrochemicals
Many petrochemicals are derived from natural gas, from butane and propane to the building blocks used to make plastics for use in medical devices, recreational items from kayaks to running shoes, even clothing.
Alberta’s industrial heartland is an area of more than 580 square kilometres located immediately northeast of Edmonton, Alberta. It’s Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region that includes upgrading, refining, petrochemical production and processing, plus specialty metals extraction and fertilizer manufacture. The Heartland has two major competitive advantages: economies of scale, and the availability of abundant, low-cost feedstocks, especially natural gas. (Source: Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association)