Low natural gas prices might be dampening the enthusiasm for natural gas drilling in the US, but not for shale gas producers (whose wet gas products consist of lucrative natural gas liquids, or NGLs) or the companies that process NGLs. Fractionation takes the mixed NGL streams (raw byproducts of natural gas production) and processes them into separate value-added NGL products: ethane, propane, butane, isobutene, and natural gasoline.
In response to the continued growth of NGL production in the Rocky Mountain gas-producing basins and the Eagle Ford shale play in South Texas, Enterprise Products Partners is planning to build two more NGL fractionators at its Mont Belvieu, Texas, complex (the US’ main NGL fractionation hub). The units, #7 and #8, will add a combined 150,000 barrels a day of capacity, and are expected to commence operating in late 2013.
The two units, together with a sixth due to start up late 2012, will take company’s fractionation capacity to more than 610,000 barrels a day at the Mont Belvieu location.
Enterprise Products Partners’ Mont Belvieu NGL fractionation complex already processes mixed NGLs from several major NGL supply basins in the Mid-Continent, Permian Basin, San Juan Basin, Rocky Mountains, East Texas, and the Gulf Coast.
In particular, the company is taking advantage of the surge of production in the nearby shale play, Eagle Ford. In 2012 it teamed up with Anadarko Petroleum to build a 173-mile extension of its recently completed Eagle Ford NGL pipeline to Western Gas Partners LP’s gas processing plant in LaSalle County.
The new NGL pipeline already links the Yoakum gas processing plant in Lavaca County, Texas, to Mont Belvieu and can carry up to 450,000 barrels per day of mixed NGLs.
Dry natural gas may be a bit of a bust right now, but wet gas is in demand.
Photo by Harald Hoyer, used under a Creative Commons license.