Cutting plate machineBest Answer: Most natural gas is obtained by drilling. Some natural gas is obtained by capturing the gas from decomposing biomass. Many sewage treatment plants utilize the waste material they process to generate natural gas. Many landfills have put in systems that capture natural gas from the rotting material buried in the landfill.

The natural gas that comes from drilling is obtained by drilling into rock that contains small pores (often measured in nanometers) that are full of natural gas. The natural gas in these rocks came from the thermal decomposition of tiny plankton that accumulated in sediments that the rock is made from. Those sediments accumulated on the ocean floor, or on the floor of ancient lakes, and as they accumulated the bodies of microscopic phytoplankton (plants like algae) and zooplankton (tiny animals that live in the water). As these sediments got buried deeper and deeper they began to warm up from the heat of the Earth. At temperatures of around 100 degrees Celsius (212 F) the bodies of these tiny organisms begin to change to oil and natural gas. As they get hotter they generate more natural gas and the oil that was generated will change to natural gas. That natural gas will then either migrate upward, since it is much lighter than the rock and water that it is surrounded by, or will be trapped in the rock where it was generated. Geologists study the rocks and try to determine where these gas accumulations may have formed, and then engineers drill wells, often several miles deep, to reach these reservoirs of gas.

Some natural gas is generated in rocks by bacteria, instead of heat. This is called biogenic gas. Where this happens the rock is much shallower, often less than 2,000 feet deep, but the same process applies. However, in these rocks some of the natural gas can actually be generating from the bacteria at the same time that it is being captured by the well so it really can’t be called “fossil fuel”.

Once a well has been drilled and gas is discovered, a pipeline has to be installed to connect to other larger pipelines that may be many miles away. There are major pipelines (often 36 inches in diameter or larger) running across North America, allowing natural gas to come from Canada to the US, and natural gas to go from Texas to California, or to New York. Anywhere along these big pipelines there may be collecting points where nearby gas fields can put their gas into the system. The arrangement of these pipelines often determines how cheap or expensive natural gas is in some areas, and it also affects the price that is paid to the producer at the wellhead, since there may be more gas in an area than the pipeline can handle, making the price go down on the wholesale side, and there may be more demand in some areas than the pipeline can supply meaning they will charge much more to the retail user.