Natural Gas History

About 2,500 years ago, the Chinese discovered that natural gas could be used. By using bamboo to pipe it from shallow wells, they could burn it under pans to heat seawater and separate the salt to make the water drinkable.

Around the first century, the King of Persia (Iran) built a kitchen in his palace around a natural gas flame that had been ignited by lightning. This was probably the first real use of natural gas in a home.

As early as 1626, natural gas was identified in America by Native American Indians. French explorers found them igniting gases that were seeping from the ground near Lake Erie.

In the late 1700s, Britain became the first country to commercialize the use of natural gas. Natural gas was produced from coal and used to light houses and streetlights. This type of natural gas is called manufactured gas and is not as efficient or environmentally friendly as the natural gas that comes from the ground.

Natural gas was first used in America in 1816 in Baltimore to fuel street lamps. In 1821, William Hart dug the first natural gas well outside the town of Fredonia, New York. Hart then formed the nation's first natural gas company, Fredonia Gas Light Company, in 1858. William Hart is considered the "father of natural gas" in the United States.

In 1859, Colonel Edwin Drake drilled a 69-foot well in Pennsylvania, striking oil and natural gas. From this well the first pipeline was constructed - a 5.5 mile-long pipeline only two inches in diameter that would carry the natural gas to the town of Titusville.


In 1885, German chemist and physicist Robert Von Bunsen perfected the Bunsen burner that was invented by Michael Faraday. By mixing air and natural gas in a continuous stream through a tube, the flame could be easily regulated.

Today natural gas is widely used. In fact, it is the third largest source of energy after petroleum and coal.