Just What are Natural Gas Liquids Anyway?

Increasingly, you will read on MDN and in press accounts about natural gas liquids (NGLs), and how major energy companies are now focused on drilling in the “liquids-rich” portion of the Marcellus and Utica Shales. The geography of where NGLs are found is typically western Pennsylvania, the West Virginia panhandle and eastern Ohio. But, just what are NGLs anyway? A helpful article on The Motley Fool website provides an excellent summary:

"Natural gas liquids" describes those gases that are produced from a well in liquid form because of pressure and temperature. The most common NGLs are ethane, propane, butane, isobutane, and pentane. Pentane is typically grouped with two of its isomers and referred to as "pentanes-plus," commonly written as C5+.

The uses for these liquids range far and wide:

  • Vehicle fuels
  • Commercial and residential heating
  • Camping stoves and grills
  • Lighter fluid
  • Refrigerants
  • Aerosol cosmetics (think shaving cream), aerosol paints
  • Agents for developing foam insulation

One of the other major uses for NGLs, aside from the list above, is as feedstock for petrochemical cracking. Cracking is the process of using a catalyst to break long hydrocarbons up into shorter, more useful ones. Steam cracking at chemical plants and catalytic cracking at oil refineries produce the building blocks used to make various solvents, detergents, adhesives, plastics, resins, fibers, lubricants, and gels.*

Read the rest of this enlightening article, including a chart showing commodity prices for NGLs, by clicking below.

*The Motley Fool (Jan 30, 2012) – Making Sense of Natural Gas Liquids