Between 6000 and 2000 BCE the first discoveries of natural gas seeps were made in the Middle East. The gas seeps, probably first ignited by lightning, created a fire coming from the earth, burning the natural gas as it seeped out from underground.
In 211 BCE, the first know natural gas well was drilled in China to reported depths of 150 metres (500 feet). The Chinese drilled their wells with bamboo poles and primitive percussion bits for the express purpose of searching for gas in limestones.
Naturally occurring natural gas was discovered and identified in America as early as 1626, when French explorers discovered Native Americans igniting gases that were seeping into and around Lake Erie.
In 1659,natural gas was discovered in England, but not widely used instead, gas obtained from carbonized coal (known as town gas) became the primary fuel for illuminating streets and houses.
Britain was the first country to commercialize the use of natural gas in 1785. Natural gas produced from coal and was used to light houses, as well as streetlights.
In the US, the first commercial application of a petroleum product in 1821 was the utilization of natural gas from a shallow well in New York. The gas was distributed through a small-bore lead pipe to consumers for lighting and cooking.
In 1859, Colonel Edwin Drake (a former railroad conductor) dug the first well. Drake hit oil and natural gas at 69 feet below the surface of the earth.
Robert Bunsen invented the Bunsen burner in 1885. The device mixed natural gas with air in the right proportions, creating a flame that could be safely used for cooking and heating.
In the 19th century, the use of natural gas remained localized because there was no way to transport large quantities of gas over long distances.
In 1891, the first major pipelines were constructed. This pipeline was 120 miles long and carried natural gas from wells in central Indiana to the city of Chicago. However, this early pipeline was not very efficient at transporting natural gas.
Advance in pipeline technology in the late 1920s made long-distance gas transmission practical. From 1927 to 1931 more than 10 major transmission systems were constructed in the US.
Following World War II, many longer and wider pipelines were constructed with a diameter of up to 150 cm (60 inches).
Since the early 1970s the longest gas pipelines have had their origin in Russia.