Coordinator, External Affairs
Cabot Oil & Gas
Marcellus Shale can produce both wet natural gas and dry natural gas, each having special advantages and uses that make them valuable to all Americans.
As most people know, Pennsylvania has unique geology that has helped make it the home of some of the largest-producing shale plays in the world. Roughly 75% of the Commonwealth sits on top of the Marcellus and Utica Shales, each with their own distinct characteristics. Even across Pennsylvania the Marcellus Shale varies in structure, depth, thickness and even the type of gas produced.
One of the most interesting contrasts in the shale is whether the natural gas produced is considered “wet” or “dry” when produced. That will make a difference in the end usage and products which can be created from the natural gas. Northeastern Pennsylvania shale gas is dry gas. Here at Cabot Oil & Gas, we’ve partnered with the folks at Sunoco Logistics to gain a better understanding of the complexities and possibilities of this shale beneath our feet. Over the next few weeks we will be working with them to share infographics detailing the differences of wet and dry gas in the Marcellus Shale and what it all means.
Wet Natural Gas
When wet natural gas is produced, it must be processed to separate the different components it contains, such as water and hydrocarbons. Natural gas liquids (NGLs), such as butane, ethane (ex. used to make plastics) and propane, are other forms of hydrocarbons, which can be used for many different products. Butane is commonly known as the flammable liquid in handheld lighters, propane is often used for heating in homes or as a fuel source for grills and propane is a chemical building block found in many different kinds of plastic products we use every day. Also, the propane and other lighter compounds found in the LNGs may be marketed as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and heavier hydrocarbons may be made into gasoline (petrol).
The average American citizen will come into contact with at least one product each day which can trace its roots back to wet natural gas. Everything from phone cases to food containers to tires to gasoline to fibers inside every kind of carpet is derived in part from a natural gas liquid.
Dry Natural Gas
Dry natural gas is essentially made up entirely of methane, and not much else. This means that the methane will burn at correct temperatures for use in things like our stoves, in vehicles and in manufacturing processes. Dry natural gas can also be used on our area of extraction to power vehicles, drilling rigs and other operations involving the industry, which reduces the need for using other fuels like gasoline and diesel.
After minimal processing, dry natural gas flows into pipelines which are strategically placed across the country delivering it to homes, businesses, manufacturers, agricultural centers and power generation plants. The methane separated from the wet gas mixture also flows into these pipelines. Natural gas recently overtook coal as the largest source of electric production in the United States, which in turn has helped to decrease our country’s carbon emissions to levels not seen in decades.
And as we’ve highlighted here, producing dry natural gas has the benefit of allowing companies to power equipment directly from the produced natural gas which replaces other fuels like gasoline and diesel.