Hey friends! I’m Daisy the Dinosaur and I’m here to tell you about an amazing discovery that helps us stay warm in the winter, cook delicious meals, dry our clothes and take warm baths. Have you guessed what it is? I’m talking about natural gas.
Millions of years ago, the world was a very different place. There were no cities or buildings and dinosaurs just like me roamed free. Actually, there were many different kinds of dinosaurs back then . . . plants too . . . and they were everywhere! Times changed and the dinosaurs and many of the plants of that time became extinct. This not only paved the way for modern day civilization, but also gave us a wonderful fuel source.
Natural gas is known as a fossil fuel because it is generated from the remains of plants, animals and dinosaurs. Over time, the remains, known as organic material, became covered with many layers of mud and soil, which eventually changed to rock. The rock trapped the organic material deep in the earth and the heat and pressure from its various layers eventually transformed the organic matter into natural gas and petroleum.
About 2,500 years ago, the Chinese found natural gas seeping to the surface of the ground. They used bamboo shoots to channel the natural gas where it could be used to boil sea water, separating the salt and making it drinkable.
Today, there are special scientists, called geologists, who help locate deposits of natural gas below the earth’s surface. Companies use big drills to cut through rock and layers of the earth until they reach natural gas wells. The gas is then pumped through pipes to the surface.
In 1821, William Hart dug the first well that was used solely for getting natural gas. In 1859, Colonel Edwin Drake dug a well 69 feet below the surface of the earth and hit oil and natural gas. This event marked the beginning of the natural gas industry in America. Then it was discovered that natural gas could be transported safely through pipes underground and used for street lights. That’s how Laclede Gas Company got its start. In 1857, Laclede, then known as the Laclede Gas Light Company, was formed to provide street lighting to the people that lived in St. Louis City.
In 1891, the first really long pipeline was built to transport natural gas from central Indiana to Chicago, Illinois. It was 120 miles long! By the 1920’s, pipelines were constructed that ran for thousands of miles throughout America. Once natural gas could be transported more efficiently, it was used in homes for heating and cooking and in industries for manufacturing and processing goods. It was also used to heat boilers and generate electricity.
Today, gas companies called “producers” collect natural gas in huge storage tanks, or underground, in old gas wells. It remains there until it is added back into the pipeline system when it’s needed most—during the heating season. More than 62.5% of homes use natural gas to heat their homes, cook, dry their clothes and make sure they have hot water when they need it. Natural gas is a safe and clean-burning fuel that can be found right here in the United States and North America. In fact, nearly 90% of the natural gas we use today comes from North American supplies!
- Natural Gas History Activities (pdf/1.9Mb)