Midstream 101

  • What Is the Midstream Industry?

    The oil and gas industry is composed of three primary sectors; upstream, midstream, and downstream. Midstream activities include gathering, processing, storing, transporting, refining, and marketing natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs), and crude oil. Midstream is the link between oil and natural gas being produced at a wellhead and filling society’s need for energy and energy by-products, like plastics. Here in the U.S., DCP is part of a large energy value chain creating safe, affordable, reliable, and now even cleaner energy.

  • What Exactly Is Natural Gas?

    Like oil and coal, natural gas is a hydrocarbon. Approximately thirty percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. is natural gas, making it the second-largest source of energy; and that’s growing.
    It is colorless, shapeless, odorless and tasteless. When burned, natural gas is extremely energy dense and has fewer emissions than other hydrocarbons. The use of natural gas has allowed our country to reduce carbon emissions since the mid-2000’s, and will continue to do so while driving modern energy consumption away from coal.

  • Why and How Is It Processed?

    Raw natural gas is processed to make a useful and marketable product for society that meets quality regulations and is safe to use.

    It’s also processed to extract valuable liquids. These liquids are called natural gas liquids (NGLs). They include ethane, propane, and butane. After processing, our trucks transport NGLs to a facility where NGLs are fractionated into other compounds. NGLs are used to produce products containing rubber, plastics, and synthetics.

  • What Type of Plants Does DCP Have?

    Our plants are centralized processing facilities, located near or within major production fields. They process raw natural gas turning it into pipeline-quality residue gas, treating it to remove contaminants or impurities and creating valuable NGLs.

    Several types of natural gas processing plants are used throughout the industry to produce pipeline quality "dry" gas. The type of plant and technology used is greatly dependent upon the geologic nature of the gas being processed.  In addition to centralized plants which process gas near the source of production, there are specialized plants.

    Sweetening and Treating Plants
    Specifically designed to remove large quantities of sulfur and carbon dioxide and other impurities from an otherwise dry natural gas stream.

    Straddle Plants
    In addition to processing done at the wellhead and at centralized processing plants, processing is also accomplished at straddle extraction plants. Straddle plants are located on interstate or intrastate pipelines that carry pipeline quality gas.

    Fractionation Plants
    The majority of NGLs are sent downstream to be fractionated into their individual components at specialized plants.

  • What Is Fractionation?

    Fractionation results in the separation of NGLs into their individual components. The process uses different boiling points of the individual hydrocarbons in the NGL stream to separate out specific NGLs. From the lightest to the heaviest, the NGLs are passed through a series of distillation towers named for the extracted hydrocarbon: ethane, propane, and butane.

    These hydrocarbons are then provided to markets where these commodities get traded. Several market hubs are located at DCP facilities.

  • How Is It Transported?

    As gas moves through the different processing phases, it’s compressed and expanded as needed. Once the gas has been fully processed and is ready to leave the plant, it’s re-compressed in a residue compressor to achieve sufficient pressure to be sent from the plant outlet to a mainline transmission pipeline.

  • Is This Process Safe?

    Pipelines provide the safest method of transportation for natural gas and NGLs. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s records show pipelines consistently have the highest safety record among all major fuel transportation systems.
    Safety is our core value. We adhere to the strictest safety regulations. We monitor our pipelines 24 hours a day and conduct regular inspections, routine tests, and equipment maintenance. We also train our employees and local emergency service providers to ensure response preparedness, in the unlikely event of an emergency.
    It is important to remember that you can do your part, too, by practicing safe digging. Always call 811 before you dig. It’s the only way to know what’s below.