Natural gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas and non-renewable fossil fuel that forms below the Earth’s surface. Natural gas is used for heating, cooking, and electricity generation. Natural gas can also be used as fuel for motor vehicles and in the manufacture of plastics. While natural gas does technically still contribute to climate change when burned, it also burns much more cleanly than other fuels such as coal and oil—the two main byproducts of natural gas oxidation are carbon dioxide and water vapor.
Top 10 Countries that Produce the Most Natural Gas (Cubic Meters, 2020):
- United States — 914.6 billion
- Russia — 638.5 billion
- Iran — 250.8 billion
- China — 194 billion
- Qatar — 171.3 billion
- Canada — 165.2 billion
- Australia — 142.5 billion
- Saudi Arabia — 112.1 billion
- Norway — 111.5 billion
- Algeria — 81.5 billion
Top 10 Countries that Consume the Most Natural Gas (Cubic Meters, 2020):
- United States — 832 billion
- Russia — 411.1 billion
- China — 330.6 billion
- Iran — 233.1 billion
- Canada — 112.6 billion
- Saudi Arabia — 112.1 billion
- Japan — 104.4 billion
- Germany — 86.5 billion
- Mexico — 86.3 billion
- United Kingdom — 72.5 billion
Top 10 Countries with the Largest Natural Gas Reserves (2020):
|Rank||Country||2020 Reserves (Cubic Meters)||2020 Reserves (Cubic Feet)||% of Global Reserves|
|1||Russia||37.4 trillion||1320.5 trillion||19.9%|
|2||Iran||32.1 trillion||1133.6 trillion||17.1%|
|3||Qatar||24.7 trillion||871.1 trillion||13.1%|
|4||Turkmenistan||13.6 trillion||480.3 trillion||7.2%|
|5||United States||12.6 trillion||445.6 trillion||6.7%|
|6||China||8.4 trillion||296.6 trillion||4.5%|
|7||Venezuela||6.3 trillion||221.1 trillion||3.3%|
|8||Saudi Arabia||6.0 trillion||212.6 trillion||3.2%|
|9||United Arab Emirates||5.9 trillion||209.7 trillion||3.2%|
|10||Nigeria||5.5 trillion||193.3 trillion||2.9%|
Russia has the largest natural gas reserves in the world and exports more natural gas than any other country, shipping an estimated 238 billion cubic meters of gas in 2020. Natural gas for automotive use is highly encouraged in Russia. Aftermarket kits are sold by companies and some vehicles are manufactured to be fueled by natural gas. Gazprom, the state controlled natural company, was projected to have 500 filling stations by the end of 2020.
Iran has the world's second-largest natural gas reserves. Iran is one of the most hydrocarbon-rich areas in the world, with roughly 145 hydrocarbon fields and 297 oil and gas reservoirs discovered so far and the potential for more. At present, Iran is utilizing only a small portion of its gas reserves, making it one of the few countries capable of supplying much larger amounts of natural gas in the future.
Qatar holds just over 13% of total world natural gas reserves. The majority of the country’s reserves are located in the offshore North Field. In an effort to expand its natural gas export and reclaim its place as the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporter, Qatar began drilling expansion in North Field and plans on increasing output by 60%.
The United States has an abundance of natural gas reserves, the largest of which are located in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. It is estimated that the United States has enough natural gas to last at least another 60 years or more. In addition to its own natural gas production, the U.S. also imports natural gas from Canada and Mexico in pipelines.
Saudi Arabia has the fifth-largest natural gas reserves in the world, mostly located in the Persian Gulf. As the largest exporter of crude oil in the world, Saudi Arabia is planning to start exporting natural gas as well. While the kingdom primarily runs on oil to produce power, it is planning on making the switch to produce 70% of its power from natural gas and 30% from renewable energy.
Chemical composition and geological distribution of natural gas
Natural gas is composed primarily of methane (70-90%) and a lesser percentage (0-20%) of ethane, propane, or butane, topped off by small amounts of carbon dioxide (0-8%), nitrogen (0-5%), hydrogen sulfide (0-5%), and trace amounts of helium, argon, neon, and/or xenon.
Natural gas is often classified according to where in the Earth's interior it is located. Conventional natural gas is found in large cracks and spaces between layers of overlying rock. By comparison, unconventional natural gas is found in pores within formations of shale, sandstone, or other types of sedimentary rock and is also called shale gas or tight gas. Finally, associated natural gas occurs alongside deposits of crude oil. Coalbed methane is a variation of natural gas that is found in coal deposits.