Natural gas is an invaluable mineral that has made many countries very rich. Much like crude oil, natural gas also has many applications, not just limited to the energy sector. However, the gas you get at your home is not how it’s found in a gas well underground or offshore.
In many gas wells, this mineral is found with a condensate. In this post, we’ll discuss what exactly is a natural gas condensate, what are its properties and uses. Like crude or shale oil, condensate also has to be refined and processed before it can be turned into something useful.
What is Natural Gas Condensate?
Natural gas condensate is a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons along with natural gas found in gas wells. This is a very low-density liquid (light liquid) that exists in a gaseous state.
It’s typically separated from natural gas at the production site by dropping the temperature and pressure of the gas to atmospheric conditions. It’s also colloquially called natural gasoline or condy.
A gas well may or may not contain this natural gas condensate, as its existence depends on the type of well. In fact, this compound is also found in crude oil wells. The gas condensate in such wells is called associated gas.
In such wells, it may be found separate from the crude oil or dissolved in it. This goes by the name lease condensate in the oil and gas industry.
In gas wells, there are essentially two types: wet wells or dry wells. Condensate wells or wet wells, as the name indicates, contain this natural gas condensate in addition to the raw natural gas.
Dry wells only produce raw natural gas without any liquids. The condensate from dry gas is not really natural gas condensate but plant condensate, which is different in composition.
It’s important to note that this is different from the distillate, which some people think is the same thing. Some wells also produce a whitish liquid similar to low-boiling point naphtha. It’s similar to the volatile liquids in crude oil. Since it is separated through condensation, it is often thought of as condensate, which it’s not.
Condensates tend to vary in composition depending on the well. For instance, they commonly contain hydrocarbons such as propane, butane, pentane, or hexane. Other compounds in such a mixture may include carbon dioxide (CO2), Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S), Cyclohexane, naphthalenes, aromatics, and thiols.
Regardless of the composition, natural gas condensate properties are very similar. At ambient temperatures, this gas stays in liquid form and has a very low viscosity. It also dominantly contains liquid hydrocarbons with very high boiling points.
In some wells, the natural gas condensate may also contain benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene isomers.
The API of it can be as low as 45 and even go above 70.
Condensate Separation from Natural Gas
Gas companies separate condensate from natural gas on production sites mainly. There are many ways to achieve that.
Normally, they cool the natural gas feedstock to bring its temperature down to its dew point (condensation). As a result, the condensate liquifies. This mixture then goes into a separation tank where pressure separates water from the natural gas.
Next, they apply the right amount of pressure to transport the gas safely to a gas processing facility. At this plant, the condensate is finally going through a separation from natural gas through a series of steps involving varying pressures.
Since the natural gas condensate properties are different from the actual natural gas, it’s relatively easy to separate them.
Finally, the refining stage comes where they remove acid gases and impurities from the natural gas. On the other hand, this goes away for its unique applications.
Natural Gas Condensate Uses
So are these liquid hydrocarbons of any use in the oil and gas industry? Yes, there are important applications for natural gas condensates.
Separating it from natural gas will attain a liquid form and be ready for use in the oil industry. Most commonly, crude oil extraction and refining companies use it to transport heavier crude oil. It’s a diluent for very heavy crude oils that don’t transport in pipelines easily.
Since it has very low viscosity, it helps dilute such oils and improve their flow rate in pipes. Similarly, this also serves to lighten certain bitumens, creating dilbit. The purpose is the same, which is to reduce the viscosity of the bitumen and make it easy to transport it.
This is typically low value as compared with cruise oil. However, natural gas condensate uses have made its prices higher in the past decade, also increasing its overall value in the industry. Those with over 40 percent diesel and jet fuel may even be more expensive than crude oil as they are free of residues and contain useful products.
Natural Gas Condensate Hazards
Much like natural gas itself and crude oil, natural gas condensate also contains toxic materials that may be hazardous for the environment. It’s a highly volatile liquid with low density, which also makes it more flammable than oil.
Therefore, companies separating these from raw natural gas must be very careful with this byproduct. If it escapes the gas field or the processing plant, it can be dangerous for the people working on it. Even in a gaseous state, it can be very dangerous for humans, as it can cause respiratory problems and even asphyxiation.
Natural gas condensate, or simple condensate, is an important component of raw natural gas. It’s a highly useful byproduct that has many applications within the oil industry. Its main benefit is that it has a low viscosity which makes it a great diluent for crude oil.
The composition can vary greatly from one well to another. Companies have to test it to find its exact composition and then figure out its best use. Removing impurities will surely make it more useful.
In some places, it may even be more valuable than natural gas and crude oil. Contact us for more info here.