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Conventional Gas

Conventional Gas refers to natural gas that can be produced from reservoirs using traditional drilling, pumping and compression techniques.


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What is Conventional Gas?

Natural gas is a hydrocarbon gas formed over thousands of years from the burying of dead plants and animals. The intense heat and pressure caused by the burying of this material triggers a reaction, which leads to the creation of natural gas, primarily methane (CH4)1.

Natural gas is referred to as ‘conventional’ when it can be extracted from the Earth either through naturally occurring pressure, or pumping mechanisms (CAPP). This is opposed to unconventional gas sources such as shale gas, tight gas, and coal bed methane which require novel technologies to unlock.

Four key components are required for conventional natural gas to form2:

  • Source – This refers to the dead plants and animals that break down and become natural gas
  • Migration – After the dead plants and animals break down, the newly formed natural gaswill move upwards through holes in the rock overlying the source
  • Trap – The natural gas will continue to move upwards through the pores of rocks until it hits a rock that either does not have pores, or has pores that are not connected to one another. This rock is called a trap.
  • Reservoir – The rock right below the trap that holds all the natural gas is called the reservoir. This is where natural gas is extracted from.

Production of conventional natural gas has four main phases:

  • Exploration:Geological exploration is a series of technologies that are used by geologists and geophysicists to predict the location and extent of underground oil reservoirs.
  • Drilling:Once a reservoir has been located with sufficient certainty, a drilling rig is used to bore a hole from the surface to the oil reservoir.  Piping is then inserted, allowing the oil to be brought to the surface.  Some of the oil in the reservoir will be produced using the natural pressure of the reservoir.
  • Pumping:Gradually the pressure of the well will decrease as oil is produced. At this point a pump will be connected to allow the remaining oil to be extracted.
  • Abandoning: After all the economically viable oil has been extracted from the well, the well is filled with cement to prevent any hydrocarbons from escaping and a special cap is placed over it to protect the area.



Conventional gas tends to be less expensive and complex to extract than unconventional gas due to the routine nature of the production techniques.  Historically low natural gas prices have led to the popularity of its use for power and heating.

Generally, drilling and well abandonment are well-understood and regulated processes but there are always risks with such industrial operations. In drilling, pressure must be regulated carefully to avoid accidents and immediate environmental impacts like land disturbance.  After abandonment, well leaks can occur if procedures were not carefully followed.

One of the greatest concerns regarding the use of any fossil fuel, including conventional natural gas, is the emission of greenhouse gases3.

Dive deeper

Recent blog posts about Conventional Gas

External resources


International Gas Union


International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers

International Association for Natural Gas (CEDIGAZ)

Natural Gas Supply Association

World LPG Association

International Association of Oil and Gas Producers

Canadian Gas Association

American Gas Association

America’s Natural Gas Alliance

Interstate Natural Gas Association of America

Australian Gas Association

Natural & bio gas Vehicle Association



Gas Infrastructure Europe

The Africa Gas Association

The South African Pipeline Gas Association

Asia Pacific Natural Gas Vehicles Association


Unconventional Natural Gas and Oil Institute (UNGI)

Sustainable Gas Institute

Canadian Energy Research Institute

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies – Natural Gas Programme

Gas Technology Institute

Penn State University – Institute for Natural Gas Research

European Gas Research Group


Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering

Journal of Natural Gas Chemistry

Oil and Gas Journal


National Energy Technology Labs, URS & Wilkes University

US Department of Energy

Baker Institute – Geopolitics of Natural Gas
Forbes – On Natural Gas Fracking Proposals
Pen State University – Economic Issues 
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia – Economic Implications of Natural Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale Region
Resources for the Future – The Economics of Shale Gas Development


Union of Concerned Scientists Science for a healthy planet and safer world


David Suzuki Foundation

National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)


PLATTS McGraw Hill Financial 

Interfax Global Energy


Werner, Vink, Watt, & Jagals


Physicians for Social Responsibility

National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)

University of Maryland


Worldwatch Institute

Environmental Leader


Aspen Institute – Forum on Global Energy, Economy, and Security


  1. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (2015). Natural gas development. 
  2. Department of Mines and Energy (2015). What is the difference between conventional and unconventional gas?
  3. United States Environmental Protection Agency (2015). Natural gas.