Natural gas is a fossil energy source and naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas that forms below the Earth’s surface. Natural gas is a mixture made up of primarily methane (C4) and sometimes a small percentage of hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen, helium, or carbon dioxide.
Natural gas occurs in several ways. Natural gas can be found in large cracks and spaces between layers of overlying rock in the Earth. Natural gas that is found this way is called conventional natural gas. Unconventional natural gas is natural gas found in pores within formations of shale, sandstone, or other types of sedimentary rock and is also called shale gas or tight gas. Associated natural gas occurs with deposits of crude oil. Coalbed methane is a type of natural gas that is found in coal deposits.
Natural gas is a non-renewable source of energy that is used for heating, cooking, and electricity generation. Natural gas can also be used as fuel for vehicles and in the manufacture of plastics.
Natural gas is a greenhouse gas that does have an effect on climate change. It creates carbon dioxide during oxidation. Natural gas, however, is cleaner than other types of energy such as coal.
Countries that Product the Most Natural Gas
The numbers below are based on data from the U.s. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Russia has the largest natural gas reserves in the world totaling 47,805 billion cubic meters (bcm). Russia is also the largest natural gas exporter in the world, shipping an estimated 196 billion cubic meters of gas per year. 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, will have 500 filling stations by the end of 2020.
Iran has about 33,721 billion cubic centimeters (bcm) of natural gas reserves. Iran is one of the most hydrocarbon-rich areas in the world. About 145 hydrocarbon fields and 297 oil and gas reservoirs have been discovered in Iran and the country has the potential for discovering more fields and reservoirs. Because Iran is producing such a small share of its gas reserves presently, it is one of the few countries capable of supplying much larger amounts of natural gas in the future.
Qatar has the third-largest natural gas reserves of about 24,072 billion cubic meters (bcm). Qatar holds almost 14% 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, Iran began drilling expansion in North Field and plans on increasing output by 60%.
The United States has an abundance of natural gas reserves, with about 15,484 billion cubic meters (bcm) in reserves. Most of the United States’ major natural gas formations are in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. It is estimated that the United States has enough natural gas to last at least another 60 years or longer. In addition to its own natural gas production, the U.S. also imports natural gas from Canada and Mexico in pipelines.
5. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has the fifth-largest natural gas reserves in the world, totaling about 9,200 billion cubic meters (bcm). Most of Saudi Arabia’s natural gas is in the Persian Gulf. As the largest exporter of crude oil in the world, Saudi Arabia is planning to start exporting natural has 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.
With natural gas reserves of 7,504 billion cubic meters, Turkmenistan has the sixth-largest natural gas reserves in the world. Turkmenistan is home to several of the world’s largest natural gas fields, which are located primarily in the Amu Darya basin in the southeast part of the country, the Murgab Basin in the south, and the South Caspian basin in the western part of the country. In 2015, over 70% of natural gas exports went to China, with whom Turkmenistan has signed natural gas contracts.
The United Arab Emirates has an estimated 6,051 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves. About 30% of the UAE’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly based on oil and gas output. In early 2020, a natural gas field was discovered between Abu Dhabi and Dubai that contains 80 trillion standard cubic feet of natural gas. The discovery of the Jebel Ali field would help the UAE become more energy-independent and less reliant on gas imports from Qatar.
Venezuela’s natural gas reserves are the eighth-largest in the world at 5,740 billion cubic meters, accounting for about 3% of the world’s total natural gas reserves. Venezuela has the second-largest natural gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere behind only the United States. Inadequate transportation and distribution infrastructure have prevented Venezuela from making the most out of its natural gas resources. Over one-third of gross natural gas output is re-injected into reservoirs to boost or maintain pressure and a smaller percentage is vented or flared.
Nigeria’s natural gas reserves total 5,475 billion cubic meters. Nigeria has the ninth-largest natural gas reserves in the world and the largest natural gas reserves in Africa. Nigeria’s proven reserves are over 306 times its annual consumption, allowing the country to have plentiful resources for energy well into the future.
China has the tenth-largest natural gas reserves in the world of 5,440 billion cubic meters. Over the past 20 years, China’s proven gas reserves have almost quintupled. Over the last five years, natural gas consumption, production, and imports in China have grown dramatically. Despite this, China is barely meeting its country’s demand for natural gas. This has kept China reliant on imports of liquefied natural gas or piped gas from other countries. This is mainly driven by the Chinese government’s initiative to switch factories and millions of households from coal to natural gas.