Natural gas is an ideal fuel with plenty of applications, from cooking and heating to manufacturing, transport and power generation. But what exactly is it?

What is natural gas?

Natural gas consists mainly of methane, followed by ethane, propane, and butane. It’s formed by decomposing organic matter trapped in porous rock beneath the surface of the earth.

It’s lighter than air

You can’t see natural gas when it’s first extracted from the earth. It’s a colourless, odourless fossil fuel. Unlike other fuels such as diesel, petrol or liquid petroleum gas (LPG), which are heavier than air, natural gas is lighter than air, and will more readily dissipate should a natural gas leak occur. While this makes it different to LPG, a natural gas leak must still be taken seriously.

Why it smells

Before it’s piped to domestic consumers, an odorant is added to natural gas as a ready means of leak detection.

How is natural gas used?

  • At home – cooking, heating and hot water
  • Commercial – cooking, heating, drying and hot water
  • Industrial – processing and manufacturing
  • Power generation – in power station turbines and cogeneration plants
  • Transport – as a fuel for vehicles such as trucks and buses

Staying safe with natural gas

If you smell gas

  • Extinguish all flames and cigarettes.
  • Don’t operate electrical appliances as they may create a spark.
  • Turn off gas appliances and ensure the pilot lights are out.
  • If safe to do so, open windows and doors to reduce the chance of a gas build-up.
  • If you still smell gas or you think gas is still escaping, if it is safe to do so, exit the building, turn off the main gas tap at the meter and contact the gas faults and emergencies number in your state.

Use only licensed gasfitters

Gasfitters know they can only install certified products. Hire a licensed gasfitter for all installations and repairs and make sure you receive a compliance certificate once the job is done.

New South Wales gasfitters are licensed by NSW Fair Trading. You can check a gasfitters licence details online or call 13 32 20 for a licence check.

In VictoriaEnergy Safe Victoria is the regulator for gas safety. Read more information on choosing a Victorian gasfitter or call 1800 815 721.

In South Australia, contractors must be licensed or registered under the Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Electricians Act 1995. The licensing of gas contractors is the responsibility of the Consumer and Business services. Queries about contractors' licences can be made to the OCBA on 131 882 .

For gasfitters in Queensland, contact the Building Services Authority  on 1300 272 272.

For gasfitters in the ACT, visit the ACT Planning and Land Authority or call (02) 6207 1923.