(626d) Spatial and Temporal Evolution of Natural Gas and Natural Gas Liquid Feedstocks in Shale Basins | AIChE

(626d) Spatial and Temporal Evolution of Natural Gas and Natural Gas Liquid Feedstocks in Shale Basins


Chen, Q. - Presenter, The University of Texas At Austin
Allen, D., The University of Texas at Austin
Dunn, J., Northwestern University
Technological advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have led to increasing production of light hydrocarbons from shale resources, including natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs). However, some basins that have insufficient gas gathering and pipeline networks (e.g. the Permian Basin in Texas) may flare significant quantities of gas. For example, in the Permian Basin, about 4.6% of gross gas production was estimated to be flared between May 2018 and March 2019 (Zhang et al., 2020). To mitigate flaring issues, hydrocarbon resources can be locally transformed to chemical or energy products. The National Science Foundation’s Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources (CISTAR) is developing modular processes to transform natural gas and NGLs to gasoline-like transportation fuels.

Determining the scale of operation of such modular chemical manufacturing requires a comprehensive understanding of the temporal and spatial availability of the hydrocarbon feedstocks. Preliminary work was performed in the Eagle Ford oil and gas producing region in south central Texas. With over 20,000 wells, the Eagle Ford produced 5.4 billion cubic feet natural gas per day and 1.2 million barrels of condensate and oil per day in 2019 (RRC, 2020). From the northwest to the southeast portion in the Eagle Ford Shale, well production varies from oil, to gas with condensate (wet gas), and to dry gas, as shown in Figure 1 (Gherabati et al, 2016). From oil to wet gas to dry gas regions, propane to ethane ratio varies from 1:1 to 1:3 (mass basis). In addition to varying gas compositions, the magnitude of available feedstocks also vary across the region. Ethane available at individual gas plants was estimated by assuming that produced gas from wells is sent to their nearest gas plant. Among 44 gas processing plants in the Eagle Ford, 60% of ethane production are represented by 43 plants with 200,000 – 750,000 kg of ethane per day, with one plant processing at ~3,000,000 kg/day, accounting for 40% of ethane production, shown in Figure 2.

Similar work has been performed in the Permian Basin in Texas. The Permian Basin is one of the largest oil-producing regions in the world and accounts for over 30% of oil production in the United States. Recent study (Zhang et al, 2020) shows that methane emissions in the Permian Basin are the highest among all the U.S. oil/gas producing regions. This presentation will provide detailed characterizations of spatial and temporal variability in light alkane production, and losses due to flaring for a case study region in the Permian Basin.

Collectively, the analyses in the Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin will provide two case studies of spatial and temporal characteristics of feedstock availability for modular light alkane manufacturing.


Gherabati, S. A., Browning, J., Male, F., Ikonnikova, S. A., & McDaid, G. (2016). The impact of pressure and fluid property variation on well performance of liquid-rich Eagle Ford shale. Journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering, 33, 1056-1068.

Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) – Eagle Ford Shale Information. (2020). Available at: https://www.rrc.state.tx.us/oil-gas/major-oil-and-gas-formations/eagle-ford-shale-information/

Zhang, Y., Gautam, R., Pandey, S., Omara, M., Maasakkers, J. D., Sadavarte, P., ... & Zhang, R. (2020). Quantifying methane emissions from the largest oil-producing basin in the United States from space. Science Advances, 6(17), eaaz5120.