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More than two and a half centuries have passed since Benjamin Franklin and others proved lightning was a form of electricity. Electricity is a form of energy that starts with atoms. An atom has three parts: protons, neutrons, and electrons. At least one electron travels around the center of the atom at great speed. Forcing electrons to flow from atom to atom creates electricity. In the United States, this process is typically performed at power plants. There are many ways to generate electricity such as burning coal, nuclear reaction, or through renewable methods such as solar, wind and more.
Electricity from the power plant is brought to you along a network of power equipment and lines. Electricity leaves the power plant on high power transmission lines on tall towers to substations and is brought to homes and businesses by transformers that manage the voltage and service lines that carry the current.
Natural gas is a combustible mixture of hydrocarbon gases. When it's burned, it produces a powerful burst of energy and few emissions. The natural gas that is delivered to your home is almost all methane. Methane is a molecule known as CH4 that is made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. The distinctive smell associated with natural gas is actually an odor added to the gas to help end-users detect leaks. Natural gas is found in reservoirs underneath the earth. Using sophisticated technology, production companies search for these reservoirs and drill wells where they are found. After it is extracted from the earth, natural gas is refined to remove impurities such as water and other gases and compounds. Some hydrocarbons that are removed from natural gas, such as propane and butane, are sold as separate products.
After refining, the clean natural gas is transmitted through a network of pipelines that deliver it to a variety of users. It's a complicated process but, at your home or business, turning on the gas is as simple as the flick of a switch.
Producing and delivering the energy that powers our homes and businesses often involves introducing new terms. We've listed and defined many of those to help you navigate the energy process along with us.