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Natural Gas: A Basic Handbook

Copyright 2007 by Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas. All rights
reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Gulf Publishing Company
2 Greenway Plaza, Suite 10120
Houston, TX 77046
427 Sterzing St., Suite 101
Austin, TX 78704
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Speight, J. G.
Natural gas : a basic handbook / James G. Speight.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1-933762-14-4 (978-1-933762-14-2 : alk. paper)
1. Natural gas. I. Title.
TP350.S66 2007

Printed in the United States of America

Printed on acid-free paper.
Text design and composition by TIPS Technical Publishing, Inc. Page v Monday, May 14, 2007 5:28 PM


List of Figures ix
List of Tables



Part I Origin and Properties


History and Uses....................................................... 3


Introduction 3
History 7
Composition and Properties 10
Reservoirs 11
Conventional Gas 14
1.5.1 Associated Gas 14
1.5.2 Non-Associated Gas 15
1.6 Unconventional Gas 16
1.6.1 Coal-Bed Methane (CBM) 16
1.6.2 Shale Gas 17
1.6.3 Gas Hydrates 18
1.7 Reserves 19
1.8 Uses 20
1.9 Natural Gas Regulation 27
1.9.1 Historical Aspects 27
1.9.2 Federal Regulation of the Industry
1.10 Natural Gas and the Environment 30
1.11 References 33

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Origin and Production............................................ 35

2.1 Origin 36
2.2 Exploration 39
2.2.1 Geological Survey 40
2.2.2 Seismic Survey 41
2.2.3 Magnetometers 45
2.2.4 Logging 46
2.3 Reservoirs and Production 48
2.3.1 Natural Gas Reservoirs 48
2.3.2 Petroleum Reservoirs 50
2.4 Production 52
2.4.1 Well Completion 52
2.4.2 The Wellhead 57
2.4.3 Natural Gas Production 57
2.4.4 Well Treatment 58
2.5 References 59

Composition and Properties ................................... 61

3.1 Composition 61
3.2 Properties 67
3.2.1 Density 67
3.2.2 Heat of Combustion (Energy Content) 71
3.2.3 Measurement 72
3.2.4 Volatility, Flammability, and Explosive
Properties 73
3.2.5 Behavior 77
3.2.6 Compression and Expansion 78
3.2.7 Liquefied Natural Gas 79
3.2.8 Environmental Properties 80
3.3 References 82

Part II Gas Processing


Recovery, Storage, and Transportation ................... 87

4.1 Recovery

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4.2 Storage 89
4.2.1 Depleted Gas Reservoirs 93
4.2.2 Aquifers 93
4.2.3 Salt Caverns 95
4.3 Transportation 97
4.3.1 Pipelines 98
4.3.2 Liquefied Natural Gas 100
4.3.3 Liquefied Petroleum Gas 101
4.3.4 Compressed Natural Gas 103
4.3.5 Gas-to-Solid 104
4.3.6 Gas-to-Power 106
4.3.7 Gas-to-Liquids 107
4.3.8 Gas-to-Commodity 109
4.4 References 109

History of Gas Processing...................................... 113

5.1 Coal Gas 114
5.2 Natural Gas 125
5.3 References 130

Process Classification ............................................ 131

6.1 Water Removal 137
6.2 Liquids Removal 140
6.2.1 Absorption 141
6.2.2 Cryogenic Expander Process 142
6.2.3 Membrane Processes 143
6.3 Nitrogen Removal 144
6.4 Acid Gas Removal 146
6.4.1 Olamine Processes 147
6.4.2 Carbonate and Water Washing Processes
6.4.3 Metal Oxide Processes 151
6.4.4 Catalytic Oxidation Processes 154
6.4.5 Molecular Sieve Processes 154
6.5 Fractionation 155
6.6 Hydrogen Sulfide Conversion 156
6.7 References 158

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viii Contents

Processes .............................................................. 161

7.1 Olamine Processes


7.1.1 Girdler Process


7.1.2 Flexsorb Process


7.2 Physical Solvent Processes


7.2.1 Rectisol Process


7.2.2 Sulfinol Process


7.3 Metal Oxide Processes


7.3.1 Iron Sponge Process

7.3.2 Other Processes



7.4 Methanol-Based Processes


7.5 Carbonate Washing and Water-Washing Processes

7.6 Sulfur Recovery Processes
7.6.1 Claus Process



7.6.2 Redox Process


7.6.3 Wet Oxidation Processes

7.6.4 Tail-Gas Treating Processes


7.6.5 Hydrogenation and Hydrolysis Processes

7.7 Process Selection
7.8 References





Emissions Control and Environmental Aspects ...... 193

8.1 Greenhouse Gas Emissions


8.2 Air Pollutants and Greenhouse Gases


8.3 Emissions During Production and Delivery

8.4 Gas Processing
8.5 Combustion



8.6 Industrial Emissions


8.7 Smog and Acid Rain


8.8 References


Conversion Factors




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Gas processing, although generally understandable using chemical and/or

physical principles, is often confusing because of the frequent changes in
terminology and the myriad mathematical equations and symbols used
to describe a process. This renders gas processing a subject that is, at best,
difficult for the layman to understand and appreciate. This book represents an attempt to alleviate the confusion that arises from mathematical
relationships and the uncertainties in the terminology. Thus, the book
falls into two convenient subdivisions: Part One deals with the origin and
occurrence of natural gas and describes recovery, properties, and composition. Part Two deals with processing methods and explains the principles by which natural gas can be prepared for consumer use by removal of
unwanted or noxious constituents.
Although gas processing employs different process types, there is always
an overlap between the various concepts. In an introductory text such
as this, repetition is helpful to the reader, and this is achieved by subdividing the subject categories and using cross-referencing so that the
reader will not miss any particular aspect of the processing operations.
While every effort is made to ensure adequate cross-referencing, each
chapter is a stand-alone segment of the book and has sufficient information to give the reader the necessary background.
In summary, the book describes gas processing for the non-technical
reader and serves as a handy, easy-to-use source to compare the scientific and technological aspects of gas-processing operations and the
means by which the environment might be protected. In addition, the
book is suitable for use in courtrooms and boardrooms as well as for
junior scientists and first-year engineering students.
James G. Speight, Ph.D., D.Sc.
The University of Trinidad and Tobago
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History and Uses



Natural gas (also called marsh gas and swamp gas in older texts and
more recently landfill gas) is a gaseous fossil fuel found in oil fields,
natural gas fields, and coal beds. As one of the cleanest, safest, and
most useful of all energy sources, it is a vital component of the
worlds supply of energy. While it is commonly grouped in with other
fossil fuels and sources of energy, there are many characteristics of
natural gas that make it unique.
Natural gas is the result of the decay of animal remains and plant
remains (organic debris) that has occurred over millions of years. Over
time, the mud and soil that covered the organic debris changed to
rock and trapped the debris beneath the newly-formed rock sediments. Pressure and, to some extent, heat (as yet undefined) changed
some of the organic material into coal, some into oil (petroleum), and
some into natural gas. Whether or not the debris formed coal, petroleum, or gas depended upon the nature of the debris and the localized
conditions under which the changes occurred.
Natural gas is found in reservoirs beneath the surface of the earth (see
Composition and Properties) and is often associated with petroleum, although gas that is not associated with petroleum is also
known. Production companies use sophisticated, expensive technology to find and drill into these reservoirs. Once brought from
underground, the natural gas is refined to remove impurities such as
water, other gases, sand, and other compounds. Some hydrocarbons,
such as propane and butane, are removed and sold separately. Other
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4 Chapter 1 History and Uses

impurities are also removed, such as hydrogen sulfide (the refining of

which can produce sulfur, which is then also sold separately). After
refining (Chapter 7), the clean natural gas is transmitted through a
network of pipelines that deliver natural gas to its point of use.
Two new and possibly large sources of methane that may extend the
availability of natural gas are methane hydrates (also called gas
hydrates) and coal-bed methane (Berecz and Balla-Achs, 1983; Sloan,
1997; Gudmundsson et al., 1998; Max, 2000; Sloan, 2000). Their production technologies have only recently been developed, and these
sources are now becoming economically competitive.
Methane-rich gases are also produced by the anaerobic decay of nonfossil organic material and are referred to as biogas. Sources of biogas
include swamps, which produce swamp gas; marshes, which produce
marsh gas; landfills, which produce landfill gas, as well as sewage
sludge and manure, by way of anaerobic digesters, in addition to
enteric fermentation, particularly in cattle.
Although natural gas is a vital component of the worlds supply of
energy and one of the most useful of all energy sources, it must be
understood that the word gas has a variety of different uses, and
meanings. Fuel for automobiles is also called gas (being a shortened
version of gasoline), but that is a totally different fuel. The gas used in
a barbecue grill is actually propane (C3H8), which, while closely associated with and commonly found in natural gas and petroleum, is not
really natural gas.
Natural gas is the flammable gaseous mixture that occurs alone or
with petroleum in reservoirs and is predominantly methane (CH4)
and some of the higher molecular weight paraffins (CnH2n+2) generally
containing up to five carbon atoms (Table 11). Briefly, methane is
the simplest member of the hydrocarbon series and has one carbon
atom and four hydrogen atoms (Figure 11).
In its purest form, the natural gas delivered to the consumer is almost
pure methane, and the remaining hydrocarbons and non-hydrocarbons
have been removed though refining. The non-hydrocarbon constituents include, but are not limited to, carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), nitrogen (N2), and helium (He).
All of the hydrocarbon constituents of natural gas are combustible,
but non-flammable non-hydrocarbon components (carbon dioxide, Page 5 Monday, May 14, 2007 5:28 PM

1.1 Introduction 5



Figure 11 Simplified representation of methane as (a) a two-dimensional

formula and (b) a three-dimensional formula.
Table 11

Range of Composition of Natural Gas













Pentane and higher hydrocarbons













Carbon dioxide

Hydrogen sulfide, carbonyl sulfide

Rare gases: Argon, Helium, Neon, Xenon


A, He, Ne, Xe trace

hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen, and helium) detract slightly from the

heating value of natural gas. However, they are valuable, and in certain natural gases where their concentrations are relatively high, they
may be extracted commercially.