Welcome back, folks! We’re glad so see that you’re so gassed up to keep on learning more, now that you’ve got the basics down from our first list of 5 fast facts about natural gas. So, we’re going to keep on piping the answers straight to you and supply all the natural gas knowledge you’d ever want to consume.
Wet gas, dry gas, sweet gas, and sour gas?
Though it may look like a the strangest menu you’ve ever seen, these are all common terms used for describing different kinds of natural gas. The natural gas withdrawn from a well is called “wet gas” because it usually contains liquid hydrocarbons and nonhydrocarbon gases. Methane is separated from other useful gases in the wet natural gas near the site of the well or at a natural gas processing plant, and this processed, consumer-grade natural gas takes on the new name of “dry gas.” This is what we, as consumers, have piped into our homes and businesses.
“Sweet gas” is natural gas in its natural state that can be consumed with little to no purifying beforehand. “Sour gas,” on the other hand, is natural gas that contains enough sulfur in its natural state that it’s impractical to use it without plenty of purification. This sour gas, however, is not to be confused with the smell of a natural gas leak. Since raw natural gas is odorless, supplier companies add an artificial smell to it so people will know if there is a potentially dangerous leak. Most folks recognize this as the “rotten egg” smell that comes from a gas stove or oven, and it’s that rancid for a reason.
Who makes the most, and who consumes the most, natural gas in the United States?
Fun fact: Most of the natural gas consumed in the United States is produced domestically. In 2014 alone, the U.S. used about 26.8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, and of that, our dry natural gas production was equal to about 96% of the total U.S. natural gas consumption.
Five states, in particular, accounted for approximately 67% of total U.S. dry natural gas production in 2013:
- Texas (28%)
- Pennsylvania (13%)
- Louisiana (10%)
- Oklahoma (8%)
- Wyoming (7%).
On the flipside, these five states accounted for about 36% of total U.S. natural gas consumption in 2014:
- Texas (12.7%)
- California (8.6%)
- Louisiana (4.9%)
- New York (4.9%)
- Florida (4.9%)
And even though most of the natural gas and oil wells in the United States are located on land, we have also drilled some natural gas wells into the ocean floor, specifically in federal U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico, where about 5% of the U.S.’s natural gas was produced in 2013.
How much natural gas does the U.S. have left, and where’s it located?
Underground reservoirs made up of porous and permeable rock hold significant amounts of oil and natural gas trapped in the sub-surface of the earth. These pockets of fossil fuels exist in specific places where suitable heat and pressure conditions had occurred at the right times to make them. Based on analyses of geological and engineering data, we have demonstrated proved reserves of wet natural gas – which are estimated quantities calculated to be economically recoverable from known reservoirs in the future – at a record of nearly 389 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2014, which will supply the U.S. for approximately the next 15 years, based upon current rates of consumption.
In addition to the proved natural gas reserves, there are large volumes of natural gas classified as undiscovered technically recoverable resources, which are assumed to exist either because the geologic settings are favorable despite the uncertainty of their specific location, or they are expected to producible in time using existing and future recovery technology, considering our major advances in natural gas exploration and production. And as of January 1, 2013, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the United States had 1,968 Tcf of undiscovered technically recoverable resources of dry natural gas hidden deep within the earth.
What’s the difference between CNG (compressed natural gas) and LNG (liquefied natural gas)?
- Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is simply natural gas (still in its gaseous state) compressed for the sake of making the fuel easier to transport. It is stored on a vehicle in high-pressure tanks at 3,000 to 3,600 PSI.
- Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is natural gas stored as a super-cooled (cryogenic) liquid. The temperature required to condense natural gas depends on its precise composition, but it is typically between -120 and -170°C (-184 and –274°F). It is often used as a fuel for large, transport vehicles.
And what’s all this business about regulated and deregulated natural gas?
So, back on January 1, 1985, the Natural Gas Policy Act deregulated upwards of 60% of the natural gas in the United States. The change allowed competitive energy suppliers to enter new markets and offer their energy supply products to new consumers. In these areas, energy prices are not regulated by the government, and consumers are not forced to receive natural gas strictly from one supplier. Rather, the municipality maintains the utility connection, but consumers can choose their commodity supplier, similar to other common home services like cable TV and high-speed internet.
Natural gas deregulation, in turn, gives the power back to the buyer and motivates retailers to differentiate their natural gas products from those of their competitors by developing innovative features, pricing plans, and options that would have otherwise not been available to the consumer.
So whether or not you like your natural gas sweet, sour, wet, or dry – we’d totally recommend sweet and dry though, it’s just tastier that way – compressed or liquefied; or regulated or deregulated; it’s still an amazing fuel source that’s growing evermore popular with consumers, and it has enough infrastructure to remain around for decades to come.