Natural gas has properties that differ from those of liquid fuels:
- Natural gas is lighter than air. It will rise if released and will not pool on the ground
- Natural gas requires a much higher temperature to ignite than liquid fuels
- Natural gas will only burn when there is the right mixture of air and gas. If there is less than 5 % or more than 15 % natural gas mixed with air, the gas will not burn
- Natural gas will not corrode other materials or contaminate soil or groundwater
Natural gas is colourless, odourless, and non-toxic. Regulations require a substance to be added to natural gas to give it a distinct odour. This substance, called mercaptan, gives natural gas a rotten egg smell. Compressed natural gas (CNG) for vehicle fuel has a distinct odour. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) cannot use mercaptan because of the low temperature of the LNG, so methane detectors are used on LNG vehicles.
Natural gas is mostly made up of methane. Natural gas has a simple structure that contributes to its cleaner-burning properties. Methane is made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.
Natural gas has about 27% percent less carbon than diesel fuel or gasoline. When used in a vehicle, natural gas can achieve more than the 10% reduction in carbon intensity required in locations where low-carbon fuel regulations are in effect.