Natural gas clean-up from wellhead to UK
Word Count: 2467
The report examines the current state and future of natural gas clean-up in the UK. The sources of natural
gas in the UK are currently undergoing a large shift, moving from self-produced gas from dwindling North
Sea reserves to pipeline imports from Europe and liquefied natural gas imports from overseas. There is also
potential for the UK to start extracting onshore shale gas resources. Natural gas clean-up is a multi-step
process with several aims including the removal of water, removal of acid gases such as CO 2 and H2S, and
extraction of liquid hydrocarbons for further sale. The merits of different ...view middle of the document...
On a global scale, however, natural gas is
expected to be the fastest growing component of primary energy (Woodcock and Gottlieb, 2000) so it is vital
that the UK gas industry adapts and changes for the future.
As with any industrial activity, the environmental impact is important to consider. When dealing with a
greenhouse gas, methane, which will be further combusted to produce another greenhouse gas in CO 2, the
environmental impact becomes even more key due to the ongoing global warming crisis.
The aim of this survey is to provide an overview of the market for natural gas clean-up in the UK at present
and in the future. Sources for the UK natural gas grid are identified and discussed, followed by an outline of
the process technologies used to process raw gas to meet grid specifications. Finally, key challenges from
both environmental and economic points of view are discussed.
2. The Review
2.1 Current and future sources of natural gas
In 2013, the UK produced 424 TWh of natural gas and imported a total 535 TWh (DECC, 2014). The gas
produced by the UK is mainly from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) (POST, 2004). This offshore area in
the North Sea containing large resources of hydrocarbons was estimated to be worth £120 billion in 2011 by
Kahn et al. (2012) and currently supplies 99% of UK oil and natural gas production (Oil & Gas UK, 2014).
It is a mature province and, following a peak in production in 2000, there has been an average fall of 8% per
year (DECC, 2014). Ofgem (2012) anticipates a 25% decrease in production from the UKCS by 2020. As a
result of the shrinking domestic production of gas, the UK has looked to increase imports to meet its
Direct pipeline imports of natural gas come via the north sea from Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium,
totalling 420 TWh of gas in 2013 (DECC, 2014). Norway is the largest exporter of natural gas to the UK,
supplying 72% of all imported pipeline gas to the UK through several pipe systems, including the Langeled
pipeline, a 1200 km link capable of providing up to 20% of the UK's natural gas demands
(Vercruysse and Fitzsimons, 2006).
A more recent market in natural gas has been imports of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), especially from
Qatar, which accounted for 93% of LNG imports in 2013 (DECC, 2014). LNG is shipped to terminals in
Milford Haven, the Isle of Grain and Teeside, where it is regassified and connected to the UK National
Transmission System (DECC, 2014). Holz et al. (2008) state that “The UK is in the process of successfully
converting from being a natural gas exporter to become an importer and a transit node for LNG towards
In future, the UK will look to increase its LNG imports, despite a recent decrease due to increased demand in
the Middle East (DECC, 2014). Ofgem (2012) projects that LNG imports could reach 60% of total UK
consumption by 2030, alongside a decrease in gas imported via pipelines. Stern (2004) however, argues that
“by  half the world's...