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Natural Gas Processing Plants in the United States: 2010 Update

Release Date:  Jun 17, 2011

Regional Analysis

Rocky Mountain States and California

Rocky Mountain States and California

  • The Rocky Mountain States, which include all of the States west of the Great Plains and Texas and those east of California, have seen significant natural gas production increases over the last decade.
  • With the development of new production basins, including the San Juan Basin, Powder River Basin, and Green River Basin, natural gas processing capacity in this region has expanded significantly. In 2009, California and Rocky Mountain States accounted for a total of 16.9 Bcf per day or about 22 percent of total U.S. capacity.
  • Since 2004, only California and New Mexico noted a decrease in overall processing capacity, falling by 17 and 12 percent, respectively. Processing capacity in all of the remaining States (Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) grew by an average of 41 percent.
  • Total processing capacity in Colorado more than doubled between 2004 and 2009, increasing to a total of 4.4 Bcf per day. Development of resources in the Piceance Basin in the western part of the State and in the San Juan Basin in southern Colorado undoubtedly contributed to the expansion and replacement of processing plants that boosted the State’s operating capacity.
  • While Montana had much less processing capacity than the other States in the region at 0.2 percent of the total U.S. capacity, it has still seen an increase in processing capacity and number of plants.
  • The six States included in the Rocky Mountains and California collectively accounted for about 22 percent of total annual flows in 2009. Overall, the average capacity utilization rates in these States ranged between 56 and 72 percent.
  • Processing plants in New Mexico, which numbered 47 in 2009, had the highest regional average utilization rate at 72 percent. The State of Montana, which has the fewest number of plants in the region, had an almost 61 percent average utilization rate in 2009.
  • Btu content value ranges were wide. In the Rockies, where some of the natural gas produced is coalbed methane (mostly made up of methane and carbon dioxide), the Btu content was very low. However, the upper values of the ranges indicated the differences in the natural gas produced at the wellhead, with the NGL-rich natural gas yielding higher Btu values.