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Colourless, highly flammable gaseous hydrocarbon consisting primarily of methane and ethane. It may also contain heavier hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen, helium, and argon. It commonly occurs in association with crude oil (seepetroleum). Natural gas is extracted from wells drilled into the Earth. Some natural gas can be used as it comes from the well, without any refining, but most requires processing. It is transported either in its natural gaseous state by pipeline or, after liquefaction by cooling, by tankers. Liquefied natural gas occupies only about 1/600 of the volume of the gas. It has grown steadily as a source of energy since the 1930s.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on natural gas, visit Britannica.com.