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Natural Gas Processing Plants in the United States: 2010 Update

Release Date:  Jun 17, 2011

This special report presents an analysis of natural gas processing plants in the United States as of 2009 and highlights characteristics of this segment of the industry. The purpose of the paper is to examine the role of natural gas processing plants in the natural gas supply chain and to provide an overview and summary of processing plant characteristics in the United States, such as locations, capacities, and operations.

Key Findings

  • There were 493 operational natural gas processing plants in the United States with a combined operating capacity of 77 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day.
  • Overall, operating capacity increased about 12 percent between 2004 and 2009, not including the processing capacity in Alaska1. At the same time, the number of all processing plants in the lower 48 States decreased by 41 or about 8 percent (not including the plants in Alaska).
  • Between 2004 and 2009, the average plant capacity (excluding plants located in Alaska) increased from 114 million cubic feet (MMcf) per day to 139 MMcf per day. In Texas, although the number of plants decreased, the average capacity per plant increased from 95 MMcf per day to 121 MMcf per day as newer plants were added and older, less efficient plants were shut down.
  • The largest 9 plants in the United States accounted for 31 percent of the country’s total processing capacity.
  • The total utilization rate in the United States averaged 66 percent of total capacity in 2009. Plants in Alaska ran at 86 percent of total capacity during the year, the highest capacity utilization rate in the country, followed by Texas at 83 percent.
  • Between 2004 and 2009, the number of processing plants decreased in 15 of the 22 States with processing plants and increased in 3 States.
  • The vast majority of processing plants were located in producing areas of the country, including Alaska, States in the Rocky Mountain region, and States along the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Texas had the highest number of processing plants and the largest combined processing capacity of any State, with 163 plants and 19.7 Bcf per day of processing capacity, accounting for about 26 percent of the U.S. total.
  • Texas and Louisiana accounted for nearly half of the total U.S. processing capacity, with the largest plants located along the coast.
  • Alaska, which was not covered in EIA’s 2006 report on gas processing, was the third largest State in the Union in terms of capacity, accounting for 9.5 Bcf per day or about 12 percent of the total.
  • There were a total of 12 plants (including those located in the State of Alaska) with an operating capacity above 1 Bcf per day. Six of these 12 plants were located in Louisiana. The largest natural gas processing plant in terms of capacity was located in Alaska with an operating capacity of 8.5 Bcf per day.

Figure 1. Natural Gas Processing Plants and Production Basins, 2009
Figure 1. Natural Gas Processing Plants and Production Basins,  2009

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, GasTran Natural Gas Transportation Information System.

1 References to operating capacity and number of natural gas processing plants prior to 2009 were estimates compiled by various sources and published by EIA in 2006. For more information, see