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Gaseous Fuels

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Background

GASEOUS FUELS, particularly natural gas, are today's fuel of choice for heating Canadian homes.

All natural but not all natural gas

1. Image of a gas-fired heater for the mantel or fireplace

1. Gas-fired heater for the mantel or fireplace.
Click the image for more information.


Natural gas is a fossil fuel that comes direct from the ground. It contains mainly methane (CH4), the simplest hydrocarbon, mixed with ethane, propane, butane, pentane, water (“wet” gas), sulfur, carbon dioxide (“acid” gas), helium, and deadly poisonous hydrogen sulfide (“sour” gas).

It must be refined to 99 percent methane before it can be sent in cross-country pipelines to local natural gas distribution systems that send it on to homes for heating and cooking. During refining, propane and butane are extracted and sold separately as LPG components, other impurities are sold as by-products.

CNG (compressed natural gas) is compressed to 1 percent of its atmospheric pressure volume at a range of 200 to 248 Bar or 2,900 to 3,600 pounds per square inch (psi) and held in cylinder or spherical container of steel, aluminum, or plastic, for use in vehicles converted to use natural gas in this form and in portable heating applications.

LNG (liquefied natural gas) is held at -162°C/-260°F at a pressure of 25 kilopascals (kpa) or 3.6 psi. LNG is therefore a cryogenic liquid, terribly cold. Natural gas is usually stored this way when there is a need to transport large volumes by ocean-going ship. At its destination LNG is pumped and stored on land in cold liquid state and gasified to supply natural gas pipeline systems.

Transporting the gas has long been a challenge because of its corrosiveness and toxicity. The first pipelines that carried the gas over a century ago were made of wood and then lead. In the 1920s seamless steel pipe was introduced which could be welded into long sections that could carry gas at higher and higher pressures. The one big disadvantage to natural gas distribution is that it could not economically deliver gas to rural areas, farms, and small communities.

In 1951, the Trans Canada Pipe Line (TCPL) was under construction, to deliver natural gas around Alberta and on to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. In 1954 the pipeline route was through the US — until C.D. Howe, Canada’s industry minister, forced the company to take a totally Canadian route with our vital Canadian resource.

A lot happened over a century and still happens to get this essential fuel to your furnace, boiler, heater, stove, fireplace, range, or hot water heater. And you don’t have to do anything — except pay the bill.

Section Gallery

2. Image showing a gas odourant injection facility3. Photo of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker4. Image shows gas being flared off


Article Sources

All natural but not all natural gas

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #013).
  • Natural Gas, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas.

Image Credits

All natural but not all natural gas

  • The Burrow, Stewart and Milne Co., Catalogue No. 74, Jewel Gas Stoves and Gas Appliances for Cooking and Heating for Manufactured or Natural Gas (Hamilton, ON: n.p., @1916), via archives.org.
  • Glen Dillon (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Peter Facey (Own work) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1072565.
  • Love Krittaya (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.