The natural gas delivery system transports gas from gas wells to customers who use natural gas in their homes and businesses. Along the way, the gas may move through several pipelines, it may be injected into an underground storage facility for a given amount of time, and it may be bought and sold many times before it is consumed.
Each component of the system plays an important role in ensuring safe and timely delivery of natural gas.
- Gas well: The well removes natural gas from an underground reservoir.
- Lease facility: The raw gas is gathered by a small system of pipes and delivered to a lease facility. The lease facility separates the gas from any crude oil, water, and condensate such as pentanes. Gas is metered to allow royalties to be paid to each leaseholder.
- Gathering system: The gas is then moved from multiple leases or fields to a processing facility in pipes called a gathering system.
- Gas processing plant: Natural gas liquids (NGLs) and impurities are separated at the gas processing plant. NGLs are moved into storage or an NGL pipeline and the natural gas enters the gas transmission pipeline.
- Transmission system: The gas enters the mainline pipeline system for transportation to a local distribution system. This transmission system moves large quantities of gas over long distances and operates at high pressures typically between 600 and 1,000 psi. The transmission system includes multiple compressor stations that raise gas pressures to propel the gas through the pipes. In some cases very large customers such as power plants are served directly from the transmission system.
- Storage: At various points along the delivery system, gas may be stored. Types of storage facilities include underground reservoirs, aquifers, and salt caverns plus above-ground tanks and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. Gas storage is commonly located off of a mainline transmission facility, but it may be located off of local distribution lines as well.
- Distribution system: From the transmission system, gas enters the distribution system. The distribution system moves gas to end-use customers. Pressure within the distribution pipe is controlled by devices called regulators, which reduce pressure as needed. The last part of the distribution system is the service pipe that delivers gas to a specific customer and the service meter.
- Meter: The flow of gas is measured at multiple points in the delivery system by meters. Meters are most often found when responsibility for the gas is transferred from one entity to another.
- End-use customer: Finally, the gas is consumed by an end-use customer. Categories of end-use customers include residential customers who consume gas at their homes, commercial and industrial businesses, and gas-fired power plants.