Natural Gas Use and Safety

In an age where energy use is hotly debated due to environmental, economic and political concerns, virtually no sources escape scrutiny. Pros and cons are spouted again and again by partisans and advocates on all sides. Natural gas is not immune to these controversies. Although this energy supply has fueled homes, factories and heavy equipment in North America for nearly 70 years–and constituted medicines, anti-freeze and ordnance, as well–questions arise over its environmental dangers. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, activists warn of harm done to the surrounding geology…all evidence to the contrary. In fact, natural gas is a safe and economical fuel source when handled and utilized correctly.

Natural Gas Usage in Canada

This hydrocarbon is called “natural gas” because it is naturally occurring. Predominantly comprised of methane, it will also be formed–in shifting percentages of various other components like butane, propane and ethane. The government asserts that Canada is the fourth largest producer and fifth largest exporter of this material. This industry is roughly divided into three distinct categories:

  • Upstream — those enterprises that focus on exploration and extraction of raw natural gas.
  • Mainstream — those that process and refine the natural gas, making it a usable product. They also send the processed fuel to local distributors via pipeline.
  • Downstream — the local businesses that send the natural gas to retail customers.

Hydroelectricity is the primary origin of power for Canada as a whole, though Alberta accounts for only 2.8 percent of it in its total usage. In fact, this province relies primarily on coal and coke as electricity generators, followed closely by natural gas. Having the least adverse effect on the atmosphere, natural gas is fast gaining favor. Edmonton and Calgary, for example, rely chiefly on this point of supply. As a nation-state, Canada received nearly 35 percent of its power from natural gas.

What Is So Great About Natural Gas?

In a phrase, natural gas customers get more bang for the buck. It is the most efficient fuel source, and is available in great abundance. Neither emerging renewable energies nor any other fossil fuel can match it in terms of usable energy content. This helps customers to save energy and enjoy lower Alberta natural gas prices. Also contributing to national and household economies is that it need never be imported, sparing users the passed-on expenses of import fees and exorbitant transportation costs.

How To Use Natural Gas Safely

While clean and efficient, natural gas is, well, a gas. It should always be handled carefully and responsibly. If the appliances through which it flows are not maintained in good order, for instance, carbon monoxide could leak throughout the house, threatening health and even life. To ward off such a scenario, homeowners should arrange for annual inspections of furnaces and other appliances by professional technicians. Other precautions include:

1. Make sure all rooms are effectively ventilated, especially those with gas-burning appliances.
2. Do not use an open oven to supplement the heat in a house. Not only does it risk a CO leak but it will also cause damage to the appliance.
3. Install carbon monoxide detectors in strategic locations, depending on house size. At any rate, install at least one of them.

Another hazard is posed by gas line leaks. Naturally odorless, natural gas is supplemented with chemicals that will emit a rotten egg aroma in the event of a leak. The potential for explosion is high when natural gas concentrates in one area. Even if no blow up occurs, the presence of gas can induce sickness. Again, the risk of such problems is minimized if flexible gas lines are laid down by certified and seasoned professionals who inspect them on a regular basis.

If a leak is detected:

  • NEVER use up precious time trying to locate it.
  • NEVER smoke in the house.
  • NEVER switch electrical outlets or appliances on or off.
  • ALWAYS leave the house without delay and call the utility immediately.

Emergency service may involve replacement or repair. These provisions do not appear on the recurring energy bill unless protection plans are purchased.

The Future of Natural Gas

Technology continually improves, making natural gas safer, cleaner and ever more efficient. Present discoveries promise centuries of continued availability. This helps to keep prices stable and reasonable. The most economically prosperous countries rely on a diversity of energy supplies. Among the reliable is the most reliable: natural gas.

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