4 Things to Know About Natural Gas Liquids (NGL)

Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) and the terms associated with it such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) can be quite confusing, so here’s everything you need to know about them.

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While NGL, LPG, and LNG may be closely related since they refer to hydrocarbons and are an abbreviation for gases, their definitions, and common uses differ.

Thus, we’ll be outlining some of the most important things to know about Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) to give you an understanding of the term, especially how it relates to Liquefied Natural Gas and Liquefied Petroleum Gas.

Let’s take a quick look at each.

 

What are Natural Gas Liquids (NGL)?

Natural Gas Liquids is a vaporous stream that is obtained during the processing and refining of natural gas in plants.

It is a combined stream that consists of the following hydrocarbons: ethane, propane, normal butane, isobutane, and natural gasoline, also known as pentane plus.

Next, the vaporous stream is separated into individual groups to give: ethane (on its own), propane, and butane (Liquefied Petroleum Gases), as well as, natural gasoline.

Although natural gas liquids are obtained as a byproduct in vapor form, they are stored in a liquid state for shipping, storage, or usage later.

On the other hand, there are purity natural gas liquids and mixed natural gas liquids.

Purity natural gas liquids describe when 90 percent of the liquid consists of a single primary molecule such as:

  • Ethane
  • Propane
  • Normal Butane
  • Isobutane

The term mixed natural gas liquids is used to refer to when two or more primary molecules are part of the liquid such as:

  • Ethane/Propane (EP) Mix
  • Natural Gasoline

 

What is Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)?

Propane, normal butane, and isobutane (except ethane), three out of the four purity natural gas liquids, are sold as Liquefied Petroleum Gas.

That being the case, not all NGLs are LPG since ethane, which is also an NGL, has been excluded in this class.

On the other hand, the three hydrocarbons (Propane, normal butane, and isobutane) have their supply chain and can be sold individually or mixed to serve domestic and commercial purposes.

For instance, LPG fuel can serve as an autogas in internal combustion engines in vehicles that can burn the fuel.

At this point, one may wonder why they are described as Petroleum Gas, but it can be associated with the fact that they can also be obtained during the refining process of crude oil and not only natural gas.

 

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What is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?

Methane is an LNG; however, it is neither an NGL nor an LPG.

Here’s what it looks like:

Liquefied Natural Gas or Liquid Natural Gas represents traditional natural gas that has not been processed; instead, it has been cooled until it liquifies.

For instance, methane is a primary component in natural gas.

Methane is also the leftover in the natural gas stream after natural gas liquids have been removed.

On the other hand, natural gas cooled to -161-degree Celsius turns to liquid, and it can then be sold as an LNG.

It can serve domestic, industrial, international, and transportation uses.

It is worthy to note that liquefied natural gas will occupy only 1/600th of the space in which the same amount of gaseous natural gas would have been held.

 

Uses of NGL, LPG, and LNG

Outlined below are the applications of some of the Natural Gas Liquids discussed above.

1. Ethane

Ethane is used as a feedstock for ethylene production.

The later helps in the production of plastics, detergents, and automotive anti-freeze.

In the same vein, ethane is used as a ripening agent for foods and a primary ingredient in mustard gas.

There are cases where it serves as a refrigerant in refrigerators and in the frozen food business.

2. Propane

Propane is used just about anywhere as an energy source and as such its benefits are numerous

For instance, it can either serve as an engine and industrial fuel or in households as heating and cooking fuel.

It can also be used for the production of plastics since it also serves as a petrochemical feedstock (chemical feedstocks that are obtained from petroleum).

Propane is nontoxic, which, as a result, makes it safe even when there are spills.

Thus, its eco-friendliness has made it a popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts due to its ease of transport and storage.

3. Normal Butane

Normal butane is a feedstock for ethylene and butadiene, both of which can be used to create synthetic polymers such as rubber.

Through the process of isomerism, normal butane can also be used in the creation of isobutane, an LPG.

4. Isobutane

Isobutane is used in refineries, as a gasoline or petrol additive.

Similarly, in the creation of alkylate (an octane-booster in gasoline) in an alkylation unit, isobutane can be used.

Isobutane is also used to provide gas in refrigerators and serve as an aerosol propellant.

5. Ethane/Propane Mix

Ethane/Propane mixture is a combination of ethane and propane in the ratio of 80% and 20% respectively.

E/P Mix blend can be used in creating ethylene or in ethylene plants.

That is why it has found use cases in individual chemical companies.

Nonetheless, the blend is extremely flammable, and as such, caution has to be exercised during its use.

6. Natural Gasoline

Natural Gasoline is also a petrochemical feedstock and has widespread usage.

For starters, it gets its name natural “gas-oline.” from being put into the tanks in cars; however, in recent times, it is used as part of the mix in car gasoline.

Other uses of Natural gasoline is as a diluent or thinning agent which enables oil sands consisting of bitumen to pass through pipelines.

7. LNG

Warmed LNG reverses to natural gas, which can be used to generate electricity.

Other uses it can be put to includes heating and cooking.

Also, LNG in its liquid form can be used as an alternative to transportation fuel.

 

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Common Questions and NGL, LPG, and LNG

What are Natural Gas Liquids (NGL)?

They are a vaporous stream obtained during natural gas processing and refining. It consists of: ethane, propane, normal butane, isobutane, and natural gasoline (pentane plus).

What is Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)?

LPG include three out of the four purity natural gas, including propane, normal butane, and isobutane and can serve as an autogas in internal combustion engines in vehicles.

What is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?

LNG represents traditional natural gas that has not been processed. It has been cooled until it liquefies. This includes methane and serves domestic, industrial, international, and transportation uses.

 

Conclusion

Now that you know more about Natural Gas Liquids (NGL), you can differentiate them from LPG and LNG, easily.

Their naming conventions will no longer serve as confusion because let’s face it; they are uniquely different.

While NGL talks about hydrocarbons, including ethane, propane, normal butane, and isobutane, LPG focuses on only propane, normal butane, and isobutane and how they are marketed.

LNG, on the other hand, centers on methane, a dry natural gas that is liquified through cooling and as such, it is neither NGLs nor LPG.

In the same vein, the various uses of the hydrocarbons for domestic and commercial purposes make them very important.

 

 


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