History of Natural Gas Industry
Natural gas formed over millions of years ago from decaying
plant and animal matter. As plant and animals died, their
remains mixed and layered with water, sand, and mud. Over
time, the mud and sand sediment built up and formed into rock,
trapping the remains underground where the heat and pressure
changed the matter within the rock into gas.
**Sources of timeline information
600 BC - The ancient Chinese were the first to discover
and use natural gas.
100 AD - The first recorded use of natural gas in the home
was in Persia (now Iran).
In the United States: 1620-1850
|1620 - 1850 - Progress in the 1600's
1620 French missionaries recorded that
Native Americans in what is now New York state,
ignited gases in the shallows of Lake Erie and in
the streams flowing into the lake. It's
birthplace was Fredonia, NY.
- 1803 Gas lighting system patented in London, England by
- 1812 First gas company founded in London, England.
- 1815 Metering for households, invented in 1815 by Samuel Clegg,
and put into general use during the 1840's.
- 1816 First U.S. gas company (using manufactured gas) founded in
- 1817 The lighting of the first gas lamp on the corner of Market
and Lemon streets in Baltimore, Maryland on February 7th marks
the effective birth of the gas industry in the United States.
- 1821 First natural gas from the wellhead used in Fredonia, New
York for house lighting.
- 1826 World's first gas cooker was devised in England by James
Sharp, but it was not until 1851 that such equipment came into
use in the United States.
- 1840 The first industrial use of natural gas in the U.S. is
recorded near Centerville, Pennsylvania, when gas is used to
evaporate brine to make salt.
- 1850 Fifty or more U.S. cities were burning public utility gas.
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|1851 - 1899 - Progress in the 1800's
- 1859 Edwin L. Drake dug the first well and hit oil and natural
gas near Titusville, Pennsylvania. An iron two-inch
diameter gas pipeline was built, running 5-1/2 miles from the
well to Titusville proving that natural gas could be brought
safely from its underground source to be used for practical
- 1863 Standardized metering begins with the formation of the
American Meter Co. under a 50 year New York charter.
- 1870 An attempt was made at Bloomfield to convey natural gas
through a 20-mile main but this failed, chiefly because of
excessive leakage from the pinewood pipes used.
- 1870 Pre-payment meters, patented in 1870 by T.S. Lacey, were
introduced in Great Britain, and helped to spread the use of gas
to the poorer sections of the community.
- 1872 The first long distance natural gas pipeline in the U.S. is
completed in Pennsylvania.
- 1880 Thomas Edison writes in notebook, "Edison to effect exact
imitation of all done by gas so as to replace lighting gas by
- 1880 Manufacturer's begin selling appliances,
mostly stoves fueled with gas.
- 1883 The first gas circulating or tank water heater appears in
- 1885 Robert Bunsen invented the Bunsen burner. Carl Auer
von Welsbach in Germany developed a practical gas mantle, which
patented in 1885.
- 1891 One of the first lengthy pipelines was constructed.
This pipeline was 120 miles long, and carried natural gas from
wells in central Indiana to the city of Chicago.
- 1899 Internal combustion engine development allows the first
compressors to be installed to move gas farther distances.
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|1900 - 1949 - Progress in the 1900's
- 1900 Natural gas had been discovered in 17 states. At this
time, coal was the nation's major energy source, accounting for
60% of the United States' energy needs. Wood provided 35%,
and oil and natural gas together accounted for only 5%. By
1910, wood almost completely disappeared as an energy source,
and coal continued to dominate usage until after World War II.
- 1904 Gas is used for the first time to power central heating and
to provide a large-scale supply of hot water in London.
Also, experiments in house central heating, using gas as a fuel,
are begun in St. Lois by Laclede Gas.
- 1907 The first gas well in Texas was brought in from the
Petrolia field. Edwy Brown began pumping gas to nearby cities
and by 1913 was serving Dallas, Fort Worth, and 21 other towns.
Brown formed the Lone Star Gas in 1909.
- 1908 Standardized gas measurement begins in Wisconsin with the
use of the British Thermal Unit (Btu).
- 1910 The City of Mesa's City Council approved a franchise for
South Side Gas Company to manufacture and serve the town with
- 1911 The anticorrosive properties of stainless steel are
demonstrated for the first time by a German scientist, P.
- 1914 Production of cast iron pipes is mechanized by S. de
Lavaud's centrifugal casting process.
- 1915 Depleted reservoirs are used for the first time to store
- 1917 The first commercial gas house-heating installation on a
large scale is made in Baltimore in a development of 100 houses.
- 1917 The City of Mesa purchased both the gas and electric
systems serving the town from A. J. Chandler.
- 1918 American Gas Association is founded to supplant 2 existing
organizations: American Gas Institute and National
Commercial Gas Association. By the end of the year, there
are 2.5 million natural gas customers in the U.S.
- 1920 The first steel pipes with electrically welded seams go
into production for use in the gas pipeline industry.
- 1922 A more fundamental approach to the corrosion problem is
taken with the inauguration of a program of basic research
jointly undertaken by the U.S. Bureau of Standards and API.1922 A more fundamental approach to the corrosion problem is
taken with the inauguration of a program of basic research
jointly undertaken by the U.S. Bureau of Standards and API.
- 1923 The Regulo, the first commercial thermostat in domestic
ovens, is fitted to the New World H16 Radiation Gas Cooker made
Davis Gas Stove, giving the user total control over the cooking
- 1924 The Aga cooker, which provides cooking from solid fuel, is
invented by a Swedish physicist, Gustav Galen. Later
models will be equipped with a built-in water tank, to provide
domestic hot water, others will be designed to run on oil or
- 1925 The first long-distance all-welded steel gas pipeline was
laid by Magnolia Gas of Dallas. The line, from northern
Louisiana to Beaumont, Texas, was 217 miles in length and
comprises 14-, 16- and 18-in. diameter pipe.
- 1926 Gas-fired refrigerators are added as a new domestic use for
- 1928 Seamless tubing and electrically welded pipe used in the
gas industry for the first time.
- 1928 Some 60 asphaltic compounds were on the market to reduce
corrosion in buried pipe. An advance was made with the
introduction of the mill-wrapped pipe on Texaco's West Texas
- 1930 PVC a thermal setting plastic is invented by B.F. Goodrich.
- 1931 The first 1000-mile, 24-in. diameter gas line was laid by
Natural Gas Pipeline from Panhandle, Texas to Chicago.
- 1932 The first domestic gas water heater to work efficiently is
the Progras instantaneous water heater. Bernard Friedman
introduced the heater into Britain, under the name Ascot.
- 1933 imperfections in metal can now be detected by a device
which produces high-frequency sound waves and beams them at
metals. Developed by O. Millhauser, the instrument will be
widely used to detect hairline cracks in railway lines and to
test welding of pipelines and boilers.
- 1934 The City of Mesa entered into an agreement with El Paso
Natural Gas Company for supplying natural gas from their new
line going to California.
- 1937 Gas-fired air conditioning units are introduced in the U.S.
- 1938 The Natural Gas Act of 1938 established federal authority
over interstate pipelines, including the authority to set "just
and reasonable" rates. It is also established a process
for companies seeking to build and operate Interstate pipelines.
Oversight of the new law is given to the Federal Power
Commission, which was eventually succeeded by the Federal Energy
- 1939 Polyethylene (PE) a thermo plastic is made commercially by
ICI in England.
- 1940 The first gas-powered turbine to generate electricity for
public use is operated at a power station in Switzerland.
- 1941 Oil industry executives began to plan the building of two
pipelines-one, 24 inches in diameter, called the Big Inch, to
transport crude oil, and another, 20 inches in diameter, called
the Little Big Inch, to transport refined products. A
ditch four feet deep, three feet wide and 1,254 miles long was
to be dug from Longview across the Mississippi River to Southern
Illinois and then east to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, with
twenty-inch lines from there to New York City and Philadelphia.
Crude oil was delivered to the end of first leg, Norris City,
Illinois, on February 1943.
- 1943 Natural gas is liquefied for the first time in Cleveland,
OH. A fatal explosion in 1944 will delay its development
and a means of transporting and storing the fuel.
- 1943 Approval was given for the Little Big Inch. This
line, beginning in the refinery complex between Houston and Port
Arthur and ending in Linden, New Jersey, was completed in 1944.
- 1947 A new type of cast iron, which is twice as strong and three
times as resistant to shock, is announced in Britain by Harold
- 1947 The purchase of the Big Inch and the Little Big Inch by
Texas Eastern Transmission was final in November, lines were
converted to natural gas.
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- 1950 Domestic customers exceed 18 million; gas now in 46 states.
- 1951 For the first time in the Western world, natural gas is
produced from coal, while it is still underground in the coal
seam, at a colliery at Newman Spinney, England.
Trans-Continental Gas Pipeline completed an 1840 mile long and
30-in diameter gas pipeline from the vast reserves on the
Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast to the high demand areas around
Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. It worked at a
pressure of 800 psi maintained by 19 compressor stations.
It was of welded steel construction throughout.
- 1954 A special committee of the Thermoplastic Pipe Division of
the Society of Plastic Pipe recommended the first three
thermoplastic materials for natural gas distribution pipe.
- 1956 AGA reported, "For the first time, gas has become the
nation's principal fuel for central heating of residences."
Gas provided central heating for 10.2 million dwelling units,
surpassing oil at 10.1 million.
- 1957 Natural gas industry has 27 million customers, who are
served via 155,000 miles of transmission line.
- 1959 LNG is produced for the first time on an industrial scale
in LA. It will be transported to Britain for the first by
the vessel Methane Pioneer.
- 1960 The number of U.S. domestic natural gas customers exceeds
- 1962 The first industrial robot is marketed by the U.S. company
Unimation. Once programmed, the robot can pick things up
and move them continuously and reliably.
- 1965 For the 15th year in a row, a million or more new house
heating customers were added to the ranks for natural gas.
- 1965 Cumulative miles of plastic gas distribution pipe in the
U.S. reach over 9,000 miles.
- 1966 President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed "Gas Industry Week"
(June 13-19) to observe the 150th anniversary of the nation's
first gas company in 1816; that company later became Baltimore
Gas & Electric Company.
- 1966 ASTM standards (D2513) were developed for plastic piping
for three materials, PE, PVC and polybutylene.
- 1966 Natural gas is available in every one of the Lower-48
- 1968 Unlike the transportation of gas, the production of gas is
not a natural monopoly because thousands of firms compete for
sales. Subsequent efforts by the Federal Power Commission
to set price caps on gas sales by producers resulted in a
gradual reduction of exploration activities, and ultimately, gas
shortages - not from inadequate gas resources, but because
producers could not economically produce gas at the artificially
low prices set by the FPC. For the first time, the amount
of natural gas consumed exceeded the amount added to reserves.
AGA sent a now-famous letter to the chairman of the FPC (the
predecessor to today's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission),
declaring that wellhead price controls would have to be lifted
to prevent eventual shortages. It was a rare case of the
buyers of a commodity asking that its price be allowed to rise.
- 1970 Cumulative miles of plastic gas distribution pipe in the
U.S. reach over 45,000 miles.
- 1970 Corporation of Pipeline Rules DOT standards change
came into effect. Federal government establishes Pipeline
Safety Rules for industry.
- 1975 The number of U.S. domestic natural gas customers exceeds
- 1975 First PE plastic gas pipes installed in Mesa.
- 1976/77 During the winter, wellhead price controls result in gas
supply shortages. The gas industry's well-earned
reputation for reliability was threatened as interstate
pipelines were unable to meet one-fourth of their firm demand.
Gas brought a much higher price in the unregulated intrastate
marked than it did across state lines, so shortages in consuming
states resulted. Twenty-two states declare emergency
situations. In response, Congress considered (but did not
pass) legislation that would eventually be approved 2 years
later, as the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978.
- 1976 The Gas Research Institute was formed to coordinate the gas
industry's efforts to develop urgently needed supplemental
supplies, to find means for conservation and to contribute to
the more efficient use of gaseous energy.
- 1978 In response to supply shortages, Congress enacts the Power
plant and industrial Fuel Use Act (FUA). The law
prohibited use of natural gas in new industrial boilers and new
electric power plants. The goal is to preserve "scarce"
supplies for residential customers.
- 1980 The City of Mesa purchased the Magma Gas System which
serves rural areas East of Queen Creek, AZ as well as South
towards Florence, Arizona. Magma customers is
- 1985 The present system within the City of Mesa serves an area
in excess of 120 square miles. The Magma natural gas
service territory incorporates approximately 236 square miles.
- 1985 The Federal Energy Commission replaced the Federal Power
Commission and issues Order 436, intended to provide for "open
access" to interstate pipelines that offered transportation
service for gas owned by others.
- 1987 President Reagan signed into law the repeal of the
remaining FUA restrictions and incremental pricing, he believed
that the country's natural gas resources should be free from
regulatory burdens that are costly and counterproductive.
- 1989 The American Gas index Fund was introduced.
- 1989 The American Gas Cooling Center was founded.
- 1990 On April 3rd, trading on natural gas futures began at the
New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX).
- 1990 The Industrial Gas Technology Commercialization Center was
- 1992 FERC issued Order 636, requiring pipelines to "unbundle"
their services and to offer and price these services separately.
This order changed FERC's earlier open access rule (Order 436)
from a voluntary to a mandatory program. Order 636 ended
the pipelines' traditional middleman role as a buyer and a
seller. It converted them to transportation companies.
This enabled all natural gas producers to compete directly for
buyer on an equal footing.
1993 The Arizona Utility Group (AUG) was formed. This is a
statewide organization formed of gas distribution and
transmission companies who operate within the state of Arizona.
- 1996 The first residential "customer choice" pilot program,
which allows customers to purchase gas from a supplier other
than the local utility, begins operating in Rock Valley, Iowa.
- 1998 Competition continues to evolve in the U.S. natural gas
industry. More than 80% of the natural gas consumed in the
U.S. could be purchased from multiple suppliers, according to
the American Gas Association report issued in August 2000.
By markets: 99% of natural gas consumed by electric utilities,
and 96% of gas consumed by industrial facilities can be
purchased from multiple suppliers. 69% of all natural gas
used in commercial facilities is available for purchase under a
"customer choice" option. Almost half of U.S. households
with natural gas service have or will soon have the opportunity
to purchase gas from a supplier other than the local utility.
this choice is available to about 26 million of the nation's 54
million households with natural gas service, who reside in a
total of 23 states and District of Columbia.
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- 2001 Department of Transportation establishes minimum
requirements for operator qualification of individuals
performing operations and maintenance tasks on a gas pipeline
- 2002 Total City of Mesa customers is
approximately 39,000. Magma has over twenty master planned communities, which will be
built in the Magma Gas Service area, current customer in
Magma is approximately 1200. System expected to grow to
over 80,000 residential homes.
- 2002 Approximately 22.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was
consumed in 2002, meeting about one-fourth of the United States'
total energy needs.
- 2003 Natural gas is the nation's fastest-growing major energy
source according to DOE's Annual Energy Outlook (January 2003).
By 2025, natural gas use will increase 54% (an average of 1.8%
each year). More than 64 million customers use natural
gas. 59 million residential customers, 5.1
commercial customers, and 235,000 Industrial customers.
- 2005 The City of Mesa is awarded the Gas System Achievement
Award by the American Public Gas Association (APGA). This
national award represents a significant commitment to the gas
industry towards improving safety and integrity of the gas
- 2005 The City of Mesa's Magma service territory is experiencing
phenomenal growth. The system is expanding and 120 new
services a week are being installed.
- 2006 City of Mesa adds 50,000th active natural gas customer.
- 2007 City of Mesa Utilities celebrates 90 years of providing
natural gas service.
- 2008 City of Mesa installs excess flow valves on single family
Total of City of Mesa customers is approximately 52,000.
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Sources: Gas Technology Institute; American Gas
Association's 75th anniversary issue of American Gas Magazine
(July 1993); American Gas Association "Chronology of
America Gas Cooking, Water heating and Central Hose Heating
(February 1952); Gas Daily's "History of Natural Gas
Timetable."; Culver Company; and City of Mesa.
Energy Resources Home Page
PO Box 1466
Mesa, AZ 85211
Question or Comment
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480-644-4277 (GASS) or 911
(24 hours/7 days)
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Frank McRae, Director