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A Brief History of Nicor Gas

From Honest Abe to hollow logs (1855-1902)
Nicor Gas celebrated 50 years of service in 2004, but the company's roots actually go back to 1855. That's right – Nicor Gas is a direct descendant of the Ottawa Gas Light and Coke Company, the company that lit up the historic Lincoln-Douglas debate in Ottawa on August 21, 1858.

In the late 1800's, everyone wanted a piece of the natural gas pie.  Municipal gas companies popped up across northern Illinois – from Rockford to Bloomington, from Chicago Heights to Dixon.  These early gas companies produced gas from coal and transported it short distances at low pressure through hollow wooden logs.

Mergers, acquisitions and our ties to Com Ed (1902-1954)
By 1920, there were 76 gas companies in Illinois, serving customers in 229 towns. However, with so many players on the natural gas playing field, it was only a matter of time before all these local gas companies began merging and acquiring each other.  Once the dust settled, three major utilities had developed: Western United Gas and Electric, Public Service Company of Northern Illinois and Illinois Northern Utilities Company.

But the mergers didn't stop there. By 1950, Western United and Illinois Northern had become part of Public Service, and Public Service then merged into Commonwealth Edison in early 1953.

In those days, Com Ed owned their fair share of gas and electric utilities.  But as concerns surrounding the technical and operating differences between gas and electric increased, it was time for a breakup. Gas properties were transferred to a newly organized company – Northern Illinois Gas Company (known today as Nicor Gas) – and on February 9, 1954, the Com Ed strings were officially cut.

On our own and growing fast (1954-1997)
As a young company during the postwar boom, Northern Illinois Gas served 479,000 customers – but that was just the beginning.  A company on the fast track, we added new customers at a staggering rate of one every four minutes!  Of course, with all these customers, we had to make sure there was enough gas available for everyone. So, in 1957, we began work with geologists to establish our own storage system.

The dirt on storage
While northern Illinois doesn't have sandy beaches or mountain views, what it does have are vast underground sandstone formations, which proved to be perfect for storing natural gas.  Taking full advantage of this geography, we established our first storage field in July 1958.  We continued to develop new storage fields as our customer base and service territory grew, and by 1972, we owned and operated seven underground fields. These storage capabilities enhanced our ability to serve customers without interruption. 

Here we "grow" again
Our service territory expanded west in 1970 when we acquired Mid-Illinois Gas Company. This was our largest acquisition, making Northern Illinois Gas the largest distribution utility in Illinois and one of the largest gas distributors in the nation.

In 1976, Nicor Inc. was formed as a holding company, with Northern Illinois Gas operating as its principal subsidiary.  Twenty-one years later, we officially changed our name to Nicor Gas.

And here we are today…
A company with roots in the farmlands of northern Illinois now serves two million customers in more than 600 communities and is one of the largest natural gas distribution companies in the country, employing more than 2,200 people.

Our storage system is among the largest in the industry, enabling us to meet roughly one-third of our annual deliveries with gas from storage. Add to this a network of more than 30,000 miles of pipelines connected to eight interstate pipelines, and we're a company able to provide our customers with reliable, year round gas delivery.  

Needless to say, we've come a long way since 1954!

This brief history of Nicor Gas was compiled from documents archived over the past 50 years. It should not be considered a legal or absolute account of the company's development.