NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Though wildly popular, the natural gas industry has been notoriously tricky to target from an investment perspective. Fans of the fuel source, however, were given a welcomed vote of confidence at the start of this week when the Energy Information Administration released a shining forecast for the industry.On Monday, the agency reported that a combination of factors, including abundant supplies, soured sentiment towards nuclear energy, and rising demand from emerging markets, have set the stage for what could prove to be a "golden age" for natural gas. Looking to the next quarter century, the EIA forecasts that natural gas use could jump by as much as 50%. By 2030, the group notes that demand for natural gas could surpass that of coal. There are a number of exchange traded funds available for investors looking to track worldwide natural gas proliferation. I have often turned to the First Trust ISE Revere Natural Gas Index Fund ( FCG) in an effort to gain safe access to natural gas. This fund, designed to track a basket of producers, has typically behaved in a more stable manner than futures-backed natural gas ETF options such as the United States Natural Gas Fund ( UNG) and the iPath Dow Jones UBS Natural Gas Subindex Total Return ETN ( GAZ). FCG's portfolio strength lays in its diversification. Although its index is headed by independent energy players such as Cabot Oil & Gas ( COG), Petrohawk ( HK) and Southwestern Energy ( SWN), FCG also sets aside a portion of its portfolio for large, integrated energy majors, such as Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS.A) and Exxon Mobil ( XOM). This dual-sided approach to tracking natural gas players will ensure promising upward action during times of strength as well as stability during choppy market action. While FCG provides investor with exposure to natural gas producers, the JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN ( AMJ) tracks the performance of master-limited partnerships, which are responsible for transporting and storing this fuel. Top index components include Kinder Morgan Energy Partners ( KMP), Enterprise Products Partners ( EPD) and Plains All American Pipeline ( PAA). Aside from providing an alternative take on the natural gas industry, AMJ's expansive focus on master-limited partnerships makes it an appealing option for income-focused investors. As of the end of April, AMJ's yield stood at over 4.5%. AMJ is attractive for a number of reasons. However, it is important to note that the product's ETN structure makes it susceptible to added credit risk. This is something to keep in mind before jumping in.
Though it is not typically the first region of the market to come to mind when talking about natural gas, water-related companies could prove to be popular as nations around the globe increasingly embrace this fuel source. In an effort to boost production, many natural gas companies have turned to unconventional extraction methods. One popular technique is hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which involves the use of high pressure water and chemicals in order to crack through beds of shale rock. While effective, this method has become shrouded in controversy as many have raised concerns about the impact fracking fluids may have on drinking water. The PowerShares Water Resources Portfolio ( PHO) is the largest and most liquid water-focused ETF available. As noted on the PowerShares Website, the fund's index is largely comprised of companies dedicated to the conservation of potable water and water treatment. Top holdings include AECOM Technology ( ACM), Valmont Industries ( VMI) and Veolia Environnement ( VE). Although the Energy Information Administration's long-term forecast for the natural gas industry is bright, it is important to remember that in the near term, there may be hurdles for this segment of the energy industry. Investors looking to arm themselves with natural gas-related ETFs at this time will want to keep exposure small and focused. This will ensure that they will be able to weather future turmoil. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.