Wet vs. Dry Natural Gas – What is the difference?

As most people know, Pennsylvania has unique geology that has helped make it the home of some of the largest-producing shale plays in the world. Roughly 75 percent of the Commonwealth sits on top of the Marcellus and Utica shales, each with their own distinct characteristics. Even across Pennsylvania the Marcellus varies in structure, depth, thickness and even the type of gas produced.

One of the most interesting differences in the Marcellus is whether the natural gas produced is considered “wet” or “dry” when produced. That will make a difference in the end usage and products which can be created from the natural gas. Cabot’s operations are in an area of dry gas therefore to get a full perspective, we’ve partnered with the folks at Sunoco Logistics to gain a better understanding of the complexities and possibilities of the shale beneath our feet. Over the next few weeks we will be working with them to share infographics detailing the differences of wet and dry gas in the Marcellus and what it means.

First up: a definition of what exactly the difference is and a brief look at the usage of both types of natural gas.

Dry natural gas is essentially made up entirely of methane, and not much else. After minimal processing, dry natural gas can be transported via pipelines across the country to people who need it for things like home heating and electric generation. Dry natural gas can also be used on our area of extraction to power vehicles, drilling rigs and other operations involving the industry, which reduces the need for using other fuels like gasoline and diesel. You can read more about Cabot’s use of natural gas in operations here.

On the other hand, “wet” natural gas contains compounds like ethane (ex. used to make plastics) and butane (ex. used in lighter fluid). These “natural gas liquids” (NGLs) can be separated and sold on their own for specific uses. Ethane is widely used in petrochemical plants and to also manufacture consumer goods (like plastics).  Propane is used for home heating and cooking. Butane can be blended into gasoline to fuel vehicles. Also, the propane and other lighter compounds found in the LNGs may be marketed as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and heavier hydrocarbons may be made into gasoline (petrol).

Make sure to read more about wet and dry natural gas from Sunoco Logistics by visiting their website. You can follow them on Twitter at @SXLupdates.

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Brittany Ramos

Brittany was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and attended Pennsylvania State University where she earned degrees in Public Relations and Psychology. She recently earned her Masters in Sociology from Sam Houston State University. Brittany works in the External Affairs for Cabot where she manages communications and outreach projects to community members, elected officials, media and online supporters.

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