Three thousand years ago, the Greeks built a temple to the Oracle at Delphi, on Mount Parnassus – a site where natural gas escaping from the earth had been ignited into a mysterious flame. Other communities throughout Greece, Persia, and India incorporated similar flames into their religious observances.
Around 500 years later, the Chinese realized they could harness these flames, and they built bamboo pipelines to transport the gas for boiling seawater into potable water supplies. Archaeologists have found what is believed to be the first well, a 500-foot drop, dating back to 211 B.C. for the purpose of extracting natural gas.
In the early 17th century, Native Americans were observed igniting the gases in and near what is now Lake Erie. Throughout the 18th century, natural gas was used to light streets and homes in both the U.S. and Britain. America sparked many milestones in natural gas history, including the country’s first successful natural gas well in Fredonia, New York, in 1821; the first municipally owned natural gas distribution company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1836; the beginnings of the American natural gas industry with a 69-foot deep well and 2-inch-pipeline originating back near Lake Erie in 1859; and the 120-mile-long pipeline bringing natural gas from Indiana to Chicago starting in 1891.
Robert Bunsen’s 1885 invention of his Bunsen burner allowed people to channel natural gas flames for cooking and heating. Since then, natural gas has become a staple that fuels our daily lives.(4)
Fun fact: Transforming natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) reduces the volume 600-fold, making the transportation of this often life-changing energy source much more viable.