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Natural Gas Processing Plants in the United States: 2010 Update

Release Date:  Jun 17, 2011

Regional Analysis

Gulf of Mexico States

Gulf of Mexico States

  • The Gulf of Mexico area, which includes the States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, has in the past accounted for the majority of natural gas production.
  • Processing plants are especially important in this part of the country because of the amount of NGLs in the natural gas produced and existence of numerous petro-chemical plants seeking that feedstock in this area. Consequently, the States along the Gulf of Mexico are home to the largest number of plants and the most processing capacity in the United States.
  • Natural gas produced in this area of the country is typically rich in NGLs and requires processing before it is pipeline-quality dry natural gas. Offshore natural gas production can contain more than 4 gallons of NGLs per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas. Natural gas produced onshore along the Texas Gulf Coast typically contains 2 to 3 gallons of NGLs per Mcf.1 Shale gas produced in the Gulf Coast region is also high in NGLs.
  • Overall, the States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida totaled about 41 Bcf per day of processing capacity, accounting for about 53 percent of the total processing capacity in the United States.
  • The processing capacity in these five States has increased by about 16 percent compared with a 2004 EIA estimate. At the same time, the number of processing plants has decreased by six as a result of plant closures, some of which were completely dismantled over the last few years as newer plants replaced the old and less efficient plants.
  • The effect of the newer, more efficient plants was evident in the increase in average plant capacity since 2004. In Texas, although the number of operating plants decreased, the average capacity per plant increased from 95 MMcf per day to 120 MMcf per day. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama also saw their per-plant capacity increase, with the average capacity per plant in Mississippi more than doubling from 262 MMcf per day to 568 MMcf per day.
  • While the capacity in these States was significant, the actual average flows at the plants amounted to about 25 Bcf per day or about 49 percent of the total U.S. average flows in 2009.2 In some instances, the difference between the design capacity and average flows was small (i.e. less than 10 percent). However, in others the differential was as high as 90 percent. In Texas, processing plants were operating closest to their capacity of any State (with the exception of Alaska), processing at an average of about 84 percent capacity.
  • Consistent with the presence of NGLs in the natural gas produced in the region, the energy (Btu) content of natural gas at the plant inlets was in some cases very high. Furthermore, the range of the Btu values was wide, particularly in Texas, where the natural gas produced is NGL-rich. However, the presence of CO2 in some other production areas resulted in low Btu content values at those locations.

1 Energy Information Administration, Office of Oil and Gas, Natural Gas Processing: The Crucial Link Between Natural Gas Production and Its Transportation to Market, January 2006.
2 Average flow numbers reflect the individual companies’ responses on the average annual flow at the plant inlet.