You go home and flip on the light switch. You turn on the stove and cook your dinner. You switch on the garden hose and water your plants. All these wonderful 21st century luxuries and most of us don’t give a second thought to where these resources come from. Honestly, when was the last time you flushed your toilet and wondered, “hmm, how does that ingenious contraption work?” It just does. And that’s enough of an explanation for most of us. Now take natural gas. Every time you cook on the stove, it lights a beautiful neon blue flame. Knowing that it’s the natural gas fuelling the fire that gives it that color is cool and all, but how does that natural gas, an invisible substance, wind up in your home in the first place?
If you were asked about your natural gas supplier, you probably would have a difficult time answering the question. Let us help you out. Natural gas can be supplied directly to your home in two main ways. You can either rely on the state utility to supply you with natural gas on a daily basis or you can choose to enjoy the services of a third party natural gas supplier like Vista Energy Marketing. But there is a third way in which customers are supplied with natural gas, and it’s also the way your utility company or third party supplier gets it. Large industrial, commercial and electric generation customers are entitled to direct natural gas supply from high capacity interstate and intrastate pipelines.
The entire distribution process involves of a vast network of transportation. Wrapping your head around it is likely not worth the headache, but here’s the gist of it: distribution companies all across the country transport natural gas from delivery points. These delivery points are situated on interstate and intrastate pipelines that are directly connected to households and businesses via miles and miles of small diameter distribution channels. A “citygate” is a delivery point where the natural gas is transferred from the national pipeline to the local state utility. The citygate acts as the market center for the pricing of natural gas in large urban areas.
In most cases, the utilities take ownership of the natural gas at the citygate. This gas is then delivered to each individual customer’s meter. This kind of delivery requires a vast network of small diameter distribution pipe. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, there are 2 million miles of distribution pipe in the country. These include city mains and service pipes that link each meter to the main.
We have a tendency to assume there’s a lack of safety and an abundance of negligence when it comes to the energy and oil industries, but the truth is that a LOT of effort goes into ensuring the overall safety of the natural gas distribution network. Frankly, there is a lot that can go wrong when natural gas is being supplied, transmitted and distributed. The larger interstate and intrastate pipelines have to maintain the highest standards of safety to ensure that a wide range of preventable accidents are avoided.
There are also some regular problems that can take place in the distribution network which can either stop or slow down the natural gas supply. Once again, appropriate measures are taken to remedy these problems as soon as a defect surfaces. Leak detection equipment, safety education programs, technicians on call, emergency preparedness and one-call systems are all part of the elaborate safety plan currently in place.
Next time you turn on that stove, you probably won’t give any more thought to how it works than you did before reading this article. But maybe you’ll think of that extensive pipeline running through the country, the safety measures taken in order to offer consumers this valuable resource, and maybe it’ll give you a different perspective on where your natural resources come from.
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