Where does natural gas come from?

Where does natural gas come from?

Natural gas is abundant, reliable, affordable, and clean compared to other fuel sources. That’s why it’s become an essential energy source in our modern world. 

A key energy source

Natural gas powers our homes, industries, and even fuels some of our vehicles. But have you ever wondered where natural gas comes from? How is it produced, stored, and delivered to our homes? 

In this blog post, we’re going to take a closer look at Canada’s natural gas infrastructure. We’ll show you how natural gas has become one of the most efficient energy solutions on the planet. Plus—we’ll dive into some exciting innovations that are revolutionizing the industry.

What is natural gas?

Natural gas is made up mostly of methane. It also contains lesser amounts of ethane, propane, butane, and pentanes. 

In its natural state, natural gas is colourless and odourless (you can’t see it or smell it). For safety, it’s infused with mercaptan to add a distinct smell before it reaches our homes. This odour allows us to detect gas leaks and take necessary precautions. 

Natural gas is a versatile and efficient energy source with a wide range of applications. It heats our homes, generates electricity, fuels vehicles, and powers various industrial processes. 

With a lower environmental impact than other fossil fuels, natural gas produces 18–34% fewer emissions than coal, oil, and propane. Its clean-burning properties and versatile uses make natural gas an attractive energy source. 

Now, let’s explore where natural gas comes from and how it reaches our homes and industries.

Where does it come from?

Over millions of years, plant and animal matter decomposes between layers of earth. The immense pressure and heat trap the by-products of this decomposition underground. 

For the most part, this is where natural gas comes from—between ancient layers of sedimentary rock (shale) that were rich with prehistoric life. 

We extract natural gas by digging down and drilling into these underground reservoirs. But, today, sources of natural gas are expanding. 

Renewable natural gas (RNG)

Remember before when we talked about decomposing plant and animal matter? 

Living matter releases gas as it decomposes through a process called anaerobic digestion. Carbon capture innovations in the natural gas industry are enabling us to harness it.

We can now trap renewable natural gas (RNG) from decomposing organic waste. Capturing RNG from agricultural waste and landfills keeps emissions out of our atmosphere. Integrating it into our natural gas infrastructure gives us another clean energy source.


The potential for hydrogen energy is huge because it is a zero-emissions solution. What’s more, hydrogen integration into our natural gas infrastructure is gaining momentum.

Innovations like these are pushing the boundaries of sustainability in the energy sector.

How does natural gas become energy we can use?

Once extracted, natural gas goes into storage facilities, or right to consumers’ homes. It moves through a network of pipelines that supply approximately two thirds of Canadians. In 2021 natural gas was available in over 7.4 million customer locations across Canada.

Storing natural gas in underground reservoirs or salt caverns helps meet fluctuating demand. Storage facilities ensure a stable supply during peak consumption periods and in emergencies. In fact, Canada has enough natural gas stored to last over 200 years.

Withdrawing natural gas as needed, we deliver it across Canada. Natural gas supplies power plants, industrial facilities, and residential areas with reliable, affordable energy.

At the household level

In our homes, efficient natural gas has several uses. 

It heats our spaces and the water we use to wash our bodies, clothes, and dishes. In Canada’s colder months, natural gas provides a reliable way for us to stay comfortable.

We can also use natural gas for cooking. Gas ranges provide precise temperature control and quick heat-up times. They’re also a lot of fun to cook with.

At commercial scale

Natural gas plays a vital role in many industries, powering manufacturing processes like the production of chemicals, fertilizers, and plastics. It provides cost-effective, clean-burning fuel for large shipping vehicles.

We also use natural gas to generate electricity in gas-fired power plants, which helps improve the reliability of our electrical grid and keep costs down.

On the global stage

Natural gas is becoming a more significant player in the global energy market. Due to its reliability, efficiency, and affordability, many countries are prioritizing natural gas.

For some countries (like Canada), this means more investment in existing infrastructures. But in places without natural gas production, they’re looking for ways to access it.

What if we could share our natural gas with these countries?

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) enables us to transport natural gas across long distances. Cooling it to a liquid state and reducing its volume make it safer and more practical for shipping. 

More importing and exporting of LNG diversify the global energy market, reducing monopolies. This gives people around the world more options and increases global energy security.

Why is natural gas such a valuable resource for Canada?

  • We have an abundance
    Canada has approximately 1.3 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves. This means we have one of the world’s largest supplies. Enough to last a long time, even if we decide to share it.

  • Natural gas saves us money
    Natural gas remains a cost-effective option for Canadians. On average, households that use natural gas for space and water heating save between $1,000 and $3,000 per year. Heating with propane, electricity, or heating oil costs more.

  • Natural gas provides reliable energy
    Ever had a gas outage? We doubt it. Canada’s natural gas infrastructure distributes an uninterrupted stream to ~7 million customer locations.

  • Natural gas is widely available
    Canada’s extensive pipeline network (over 577,000 km) connects roughly two thirds of Canadians.7 This network links production and storage to urban centres and remote regions. It means reliable energy is accessible almost anywhere across Canada.

  • Natural gas is a highly efficient energy source
    Natural gas offers high energy efficiency due to its high heating value. In short, it burns hotter than other fuels and emits fewer greenhouse gases, which enables efficient conversion into electricity and heat, reducing energy waste.

Now you know

Short answer: natural gas is an invisible substance from underground—and so much more. 

Abundant, affordable, reliable, accessible, and efficient, natural gas plays a crucial role in Canada’s (and the world’s) energy landscape. Its infrastructure ensures Canadians can live in comfort year-round.

Innovations in the natural gas industry are helping the energy sector evolve. As we navigate towards a more sustainable future, natural gas will remain a vital part of that path. 

Explore more stories to learn why natural gas belongs in our energy mix.