The Pipeline Process
Natural gas is extracted from the depths of 3000 to 15,000 feet. During the initial years of exploration, the gas will be under 60 to 70 psig pressure which is sufficient for removal.
However, gas pressure drops over time and eventually the pressure equilibrates with ambient pressure requiring external motive force for further extraction.
Two common modes of forced extraction are flooding and applying a vacuum using large capacity compressors. The compressor method is more common where the facility has only gas wells. When oil is also extracted, water coming out with the oil is separated and used for flooding the gas wells to compress and extract the gas.
When compressors are used, 8 to 32 gas wells are lateralized and pooled per compressor. Compressors are sometimes used even when the gas is under pressure where the well location is sub-optimal and extraction efficiency is poor.
Applying a vacuum to extract the gas creates the potential for atmospheric oxygen leaking into the pipeline / wellhead. The leakage can occur through the stuffing box on the plunger or through the gas transmission pipeline. Therefore to insure purity and safety, monitoring for oxygen contamination is essential.
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