The electric power sector uses natural gas to generate electricity. In 2018, the electric power sector accounted for about 35% of total U.S. natural gas consumption, and natural gas was the source of about 29% of the U.S. electric power sector’s primary energy consumption. Most of the electricity produced by the electric power sector is sold to and used by the other U.S. consuming sectors, and that electricity use is included in each sector’s total energy consumption.
The other consuming sectors also use natural gas to generate electricity, and they use nearly all this electricity
themselves. Electricity and natural gas are the most common energy sources used in commercial buildings. Most individual commercial buildings have their own heating and cooling systems. However, there are district energy systems that supply heating and cooling to groups of commercial buildings.
When many buildings are close together, such as on a college campus or in a city, having a central heating and cooling plant that distributes steam, hot water, or chilled water to multiple buildings is sometimes more efficient. District energy systems may also produce electricity along with heating and cooling energy.
District energy systems generally use fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, or fuel oil), although some use renewable sources of energy (biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind energy). The industrial sector uses natural gas as a fuel for process heating, in combined heat and power systems, and as a raw material (feedstock) to produce chemicals, fertilizer, and hydrogen.
In 2018, the industrial sector accounted for about 34% of total U.S. natural gas consumption, and natural gas was the source of about 32% of the U.S. industrial sector’s total energy consumption. The residential sector uses natural gas to heat buildings and water, to cook, and to dry clothes.
About half of the homes in the United States use natural gas for these purposes. In 2018, the residential sector accounted for about 17% of total U.S. natural gas consumption, and natural gas was the source of about 24% of the U.S. residential sector’s total energy consumption.
Natural gas, as compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas, is used in cars, buses, trucks, and ships. Most of the vehicles that use natural gas are in government and private vehicle fleets. Natural gas is also used to operate compressors to move natural gas in pipelines.