Natural Gas Liquids production

Natural Gas Liquid (NGL) Production Is the Big Story
December 5, 2018 – 12:36 pm

NGL ProductionTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

Natural gas liquids (NGL) holds the potential to revive American manufacturing and achieve American energy independence with economic benefits that are distributed nationwide to both rural and urban residents.

Many people, including me, have, in the last few days, been quoting from the recently released IHS report entitled America’s New Energy Future: Manufacturing Renaissance Report, which produced some pretty astounding data regarding the impact of unconventional oil and gas production on household incomes. The report indicates the following, for example:

NGL UsesIn 2012, average real disposable income per household increased by more than $1, 200 as a result of the unconventional revolution—an aggregate financial boost to all US households of $163 billion.

As important as this is, a reading of the full report indicates there is more good news and it relates to natural gas liquids (NGL), which are among the keys to a revival of U.S. manufacturing as well our energy independence. Moreover, NGL production will help to spread the economic benefits of natural gas development throughout the nation.

NGLs are described as follows in the IHS report:

Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) constitute a group of light hydrocarbons that are typically in liquid form when stored under pressure but become gaseous under ambient conditions.NGL Added Vlaue Examples include ethane, propane, butane, iso-butane, and pentanes, or simply NGLs when unseparated.

All these various NGLs are used to produce petrochemicals, some are used in heating applications and the heaviest gases can also be used for gasoline blending. The following illustrations from the report help explain:

The report also notes that because there is no end-use market for the raw mix of NGLs, they must be transported long distances to be fractionated into usable products and this “most often takes place at large, centrally located merchant facilities typically located near large NGL markets” such as those found in Texas.

NGL ImportsThis will require major investments in pipeline infrastructure that reverses the direction of product that has traditionally flowed from southwest to northeast. “This will include roughly 5, 000 miles of new NGL trunk lines within the United States and several conversion, expansion, and reversal projects. The largest reversal project currently under way is Enterprise Products’ ATEX project to construct 430 miles of new pipeline and convert 860 miles of former natural gas trunk lines…Once completed, this project will provide a key logistics link to transport ethane produced in the Marcellus play to ethylene steam crackers on the Gulf Coast. IHS forecasts total investment for this segment at $18 billion, with approximately 80% of it associated with large pipeline projects.”

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