Natural gas liquid exports via Pacific Northwest ports..by Darryl Anderson, WavePoint Consulting
In 2014, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies report, The US Shale Revolution and the changes in LPG Trade Dynamics, observed that “One of the significant developments associated with the U.S. shale revolution and that has attracted little attention from market analysts, is the sharp expansion in the U.S. liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) exports. Substantial increases in domestic supply have not only meant that U.S. imports of LPG, which mainly come from Canada, have dwindled, but the U.S. has now become one of the world’s biggest exporters of LPG. According to the United States Energy Information Agency (EIA), U.S. LPG exports are expected to persist well into the next decade as natural gas liquids (NGLs) output in the U.S. continues its upward trend.” In September 2016, the EIA announced that propane is now the second-largest U.S. petroleum product export, surpassing motor gasoline.
Photo above:Currently, the only existing LPG export terminal on the West Coast of North America is in Ferndale, Washington (Photo courtesy of AltaGas).
Historically, Canada’s natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) production was consumed within the country or shipped to the United States. With the U.S. successfully developing their shale gas reserves, it is becoming a net energy exporter in some commodities. In turn, this is having a knock-on impact. Domestic U.S. production is displacing Canadian natural gas and NGLs. Consequently, new transportation infrastructure and services are needed. This article explores the supply of natural gas liquids and export terminal developments in the Pacific Northwest.
Natural gas liquid supply
Natural Resource Canada indicates that raw natural gas as it comes from the wellhead is mostly comprised of methane (the largest constituent of household natural gas), but also contains various heavier hydrocarbons. The heavier hydrocarbons consist of ethane, propane, butanes and pentanes, and are called natural gas liquids (NGLs).
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