Compressed natural gas - natural gas under high pressure
A "Natural" Choice
You can cook with it and heat your house with it. You may even power a car or truck with
it. So what is it? ... natural gas. Like oil (petroleum), this common fuel comes from
underground. However, natural gas, as the name implies, is a gas much like air, rather
than a liquid like petroleum. It has been found to be one of the most environmentally
friendly fuels, and its popularity is growing.
Natural gas is mostly made up of methane, about 95 percent of the natural gas in
California. The other 5 percent is made up of various gases along with small amounts of
water vapor. These other gases include butane, propane, ethane and other trace gases.
Methane is a hydrocarbon, meaning its molecules are made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms.
Its simple, one carbon, molecular structure (CH4) makes possible its nearly complete
Because of its clean burning nature and the fact that it is not made from petroleum, as
gasoline and diesel are, many automakers around the world are developing vehicles to run
on natural gas. Cars, vans, buses and small trucks generally use natural gas that has been
compressed (called compressed natural gas or CNG) and stored in high-pressure cylinders.
Several vehicles are available today (such as the Honda Civic CGX above and the Ford
Crown Victoria to the right) that operate on compressed natural gas. Some run on
natural gas only and others can run on natural gas or gasoline (called bi-fuel vehicles).
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