September 11, 2014

IE Questions: What’s A Wet Play?

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This is wet play.

These fun-loving girls are expending plenty of energy slip-sliding down this giant dripping blue pillow. Questioned answered, right?  And it looks a lot safer than the glorified sheets of plastic wrap we used to throw ourselves down when I was a kid.


OK, a slip-n-slide may be wet play, few would deny that, but it isn’t “a wet play” as defined in the oil and gas world.

When companies drill for natural gas, they’re looking for one of two things: dry gas or wet gas.

Dry gas is basically pure methane, what we traditionally think of as natural gas. The greater the percentage of methane, the “drier” the gas.  The U.S. Energy Development Corporation writes it “is typically used in heating and cooling systems and for electrical power generation. Once compressed, dry gas can be used as vehicle fuel.”

Wet gas, on the other hand, is methane that is combined with other natural gas liquids (known as NGLs.) These can be butane, ethane, propane, and other hydrocarbons. Wet gas is more profitable for the oil and gas industry, because these other compounds can be stripped from the methane and sold individually.

As NPR’s State Impact Pennsylvania reports, drillers in that state are focusing more on the “wet plays,” in southwestern Pennsylvania and less on the dry gas formations in the northeast.

But, the low price of natural gas, dry or wet, is making it difficult for companies to turn a profit. We’ll be looking into that more in the coming weeks.