Our final stop on the Piceance Basin tour (sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute) was a trip to a gas plant, where the gas is cleaned and piped out to places all over the country (87% of Williams’ gas is sold outside the Rockies).
The amount of technical work involved in not only the “cleaning” and prepping of the gas, but the coordination of how much gas needs to go where along the pipeline system is truly astounding: Williams must coordinate with other natural gas makers in the area to determine how much of their gas is needed, when it is needed and on which lines.
The company has some control over the quantity of their gas supply by using pumps to “push” the gas back up their pipelines and compress it further, but by and large the coordination of distributing the gas requires careful planning and timing with the drilling of the energy and the demand around the country for it.
Recycling at the Gas Plant
Carbon dioxide (CO2) occurs in natural gas but must be pulled out before the gas is sent through the pipelines and to people’s homes. At the plant station we visited, about half of the CO2 pulled out of the gas is purchased by a company called Solvay, which adds the CO2 to its sodash to make food-quality baking soda.
I asked whether any of the waste heat from the gas plant is reused. The plant manager said that some of the heat is captured and added to their heating oil, which helps augment their heating requirements, but most of the heat is not captured (I was told that little heat is actually wasted, as there aren’t any generators on site). A new plant coming online soon, called Willow Creek, will have large turbines and more waste heat, and there are plans to recycle that heat by using it to power other parts of the plant.