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Natural Gas Processing Plants in the United States: 2010 Update

Release Date:  Jun 17, 2011


The preceding report is the most comprehensive report published by the EIA on natural gas processing plants in the United States. The data in the report for the year 2008 were collected on Form EIA-757, Natural Gas Processing Survey Schedule A, which was fielded to EIA respondents in the latter part of 2008 for the first time. This survey was used to collect information on the capacity, status, and operations of natural gas processing plants and to monitor constraints of natural gas processing plants during periods of supply disruption in areas affected by an emergency, such as a hurricane. EIA received authorization to collect information on processing plants from the Office of Management and Budget in early 2008.

The form consists of two parts, Schedule A and Schedule B. Schedule A is the Baseline Report, which will be collected from all processing plants at most once every 3 years. Schedule B is the Emergency Status Report, which is only activated during an emergency situation that impacts the supply of natural gas to consumers. Schedule B was activated for the first time in the September 2008 following the landfall of Hurricane Ike, and the information was collected only from processing plants situated in areas where the natural gas supply disruption occurred.

EIA determined the need for this survey in the aftermath of the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season, when it became evident that the need for information by natural gas markets, State and Federal lawmakers, and the public was not met with the information available at the time. During that particularly active season, the Gulf of Mexico coast, home to some of the country’s largest natural gas processing plants, experienced severe damage. The damage to the processing plants in the region caused significant recovery delays. EIA developed Form EIA-757 in close cooperation with representatives of the Gas Processors Association (GPA), who shared their expertise with EIA staff on survey questions to help better capture the necessary information.

Form EIA-757 respondents were chosen from various sources. The survey frame was initially built based upon the list of respondents to Form EIA-816, Monthly Natural Gas Liquids Report, and EIA-64A, Annual Report on the Origins of Natural Gas Liquids Production.  EIA also used external sources, such as the LPG Almanac, trade publications including NGI’s Daily Gas Price Index (published by Intelligence Press, Inc), and Gas Daily (published by Platt’s) to create an initial list of respondents for the survey. Based on these sources, a comprehensive list of natural gas processing plants was created and the respondents were contacted in late 2008.

The response rate for this survey exceeded 94 percent as of August 2009. Because of the nature of the information, its value in the competitive industry, and to protect the plant-level confidential data shared by the respondents, company- or plant-level data could not be released to the public. Instead, EIA published the aggregate figures for capacity, status, and operations of natural gas processing plants.

Comparison of Form EIA-757 to Form EIA-816 and EIA-64A

Form EIA-757, Natural Gas Processing Plant Survey Schedule A, conducted a census of all plants in the United States as of the end of 2008. EIA required all operators of processing facilities in the United States to submit a separate form for each plant and include information on capacity, status, and operations of those plants. EIA defines natural gas processing plant as facilities designed to recover natural gas liquids from a stream of natural gas that may or may not have passed through lease separators and/or field separation facilities. Another function of natural gas processing plants is to control the quality of the processed natural gas stream. Cycling plants are considered natural gas processing plants; however, fractionators are not.

EIA conducts two other surveys and the frames of these two surveys include most of the processing plants in the United States as well as fractionators. However, neither of the two surveys collects specific information on natural gas processing operations, instead focusing on the natural gas liquids. Form EIA-816, Monthly Natural Gas Liquids Report, surveys all natural gas processing plants and fractionators on their NGL month-end stocks. Any processing plant that does not fractionate (i.e. extract NGLs from the wellhead gas) and cannot store NGLs on their premises is not included in the survey. However, a number of natural gas processing plants in the United States cannot fractionate NGLs and do not have any liquids storage capabilities. Form EIA-64A, Annual Report of the Origin of Natural Gas Liquids Production, also focuses on NGLs, without collecting any operating information of processing plants. Furthermore, any processing plant that processes product from a non-U.S. source is not included in the survey. For example, a number of processing plants in the Illinois and Michigan are not included in the survey because the gas processed at these facilities is of Canadian origin.