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You are here:  Educational Activities > Energy Lessons > Natural Gas-Introduction > Gas History

An Energy Lesson

Natural Gas - Fueling the Blue Flame

The History of Natural Gas

Gaslight -
One of the earliest uses of natural gas was to fuel street lights in the 1800s.

The ancient "eternal fires" in the area of present day Iraq that were reported in Plutarch's writings around 100 to 125 A.D. probably were from natural gas escaping from cracks in the ground and ignited by lightning.

In 1821 in Fredonia, New York, William A. Hart drilled a 27 foot deep well in an effort to get a larger flow of gas from a surface seepage of natural gas. This was the first well intentionally drilled to obtain natural gas.

For most of the 1800s, natural gas was used almost exclusively as a fuel for lamps. Because there were no pipelines to bring gas into individual homes, most of the gas went to light city streets. After the 1890s, however, many cities began converting their street lamps to electricity. Gas producers began looking for new markets for their product.

In 1885, Robert Bunsen invented a burner that mixed air with natural gas. The "Bunsen burner" showed how gas could be used to provide heat for cooking and warming buildings.

It took the construction of pipelines to bring natural gas to new markets. Although one of the first lengthy pipelines was built in 1891 -it was 120 miles long and carried gas from fields in central Indiana to Chicago - there were very few pipelines built until after World War II in the 1940s.

Improvements in metals, welding techniques and pipe making during the War made pipeline construction more economically attractive. After World War II, the nation began building its pipeline network. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of miles of pipeline were constructed throughout the United States. Today, the U.S. pipeline network, laid end-to-end, would stretch to the moon and back twice.



Dr. H. Carbon asks:  What material was used to make the first natural gas pipelines?








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