Natural gas is emerging as the "fuel of the '90s" and that translates into the brightest outlook for Utah's Questar Corp. since Chairman R.D. Cash joined the company 15 years ago.

It's a window of "unparalleled opportunity" for the natural-gas industry and Questar, parent company of Mountain Fuel Supply, plans to take full advantage of it, Cash told shareholders at Questar's annual meeting Tuesday.He said gas can help solve environmental problems while at the same time reduce the nation's dependence on imported oil. Questar's integrated structure as producer, transporter and retailer puts it in good position to capitalize on those advantages.

While Questar's future seems bright, the company's recent track record has been equally strong. Net income for 1990 was $57.5 million or $2.91 per share, up 13 percent from $50.8 million or $2.55 per share in 1989 for the high

est net income in five years. Return on shareholders equity was 12.3 percent in 1990, up from 10.9 percent the previous year. Annualized dividends for the year were $1.96 per share, representing a 5.1 percent approximate yield.

Net income of Questar's Exploration and Production group was up 58 percent to $17.36 million, a result of increased gas production, higher oil prices, expanded gas marketing and gas-development drilling projects.

In other activity at Tuesday's meeting, W. Whitley Hawkins, president and chief operating officer of Delta Airlines was elected to the Questar board for a three-year term replacing B.Z. Kastler who becomes a senior director. Re-elected to three-year terms were U. Edwin Garrison, chairman of Thiokol Corp.; Robert E. Kadlec, president of BC Gas Inc.; and D.B. Ozmun, president of Potomac Corp.

Shareholders also voted to increase the authorized shares of the company's common stock from 75 million, par value $2.50 per share, to 175 million without par value. A Questar spokesman said the increase was proposed to permit the company "sufficient flexibility" to declare stock splits and to finance its business activities. (See related article.)

Also approved were a long-term stock-incentive program for company officers and "key employees" and amendments to an existing stock-option plan for directors.

Cash told shareholders the company is pursuing an "aggressive growth strategy" to build on last year's strong results. That plan includes record capital spending this year of $168 million to increase long-life natural-gas reserves. Capital spending for exploration, acquisitions and development drilling will reach $51 million this year for construction of new pipelines and gas-storage systems and to expand marketing and distribution activities.

Mountain Fuel Supply, Questar's gas retailer, will spend about $36 million this year to add customers and develop facilities for natural-gas powered vehicles.

Cash told shareholders the company's long-term goals for them include earnings growth, short and long-term value, competitive dividends and at least 13 percent return on equity.