While every energy source carries risks, natural gas is safe and clean for consumer, commercial and industrial uses and for electrical power generation.
Today, more than half of the 120 million U.S. households use natural gas directly in their homes, according to the Natural Gas Supply Association. While usage has risen 20 percent since 1988, the American Gas Association reports that household safety incidents have declined 29 percent in the same period.
The unique characteristics of natural gas contribute to its excellent safety record. It has a limited range of flammability; it will not burn if it has too much or too little oxygen or in the absence of a spark or ignition source. Additionally, all natural gas that is distributed to residential and commercial consumers has an odorant called mercaptan that gives it a distinct smell. This smell makes it easy to identify when a gas leak has occurred.
To keep consumers safe and informed, the industry coordinates extensive natural gas safety and awareness programs, which are overseen by the states and federal government.
Natural gas is also produced and transported safely. Pipelines are the most common method to transport natural gas.
As populations grow and cities expand, communities often move closer to underground pipelines. With proper planning and appropriate safeguards, community expansion can continue safely. Long-distance interstate natural gas pipelines are subject to Federal regulations and are built to extremely high standards in order to ensure safety, reliability and a long service life. These pipelines are monitored by trained personnel as well as automated equipment, and undergo regular inspection and testing.
Safety at ConocoPhillips
Through application of ConocoPhillips' safety standards and programs, our employees have achieved five successive years of improvement, which made 2010 our safest year on record. But with this improvement, our mission is that we will not be satisfied until all injuries, occupational illnesses, unsafe practices and incidents of environmental harm have been eliminated from our activities.
Just like all aspects of our business, the company takes specific steps to ensure the safety of its natural gas workforce. Safety starts with the people of ConocoPhillips – both employees and contractors alike. Everyone working at a ConocoPhillips location must complete rigorous safety training before entering the worksite to begin work. During this training, employees and contractors come to understand ConocoPhillips' commitment to safety and that they have the authority and the right to stop any unsafe work.
The safety of natural gas use is another reason we believe it should be an important part of America's energy future.