When in the reservoir, natural gas is found in three states: non-associated, where there is no oil contact; gas cap, where it is overlying an oil reserve; and associated gas, which is dissolved in the oil. The composition of the natural gas defines how it will be processed for transport. Whether staying in its gaseous state or being transformed into a liquid, natural gas from the well must undergo separation processes to remove water, acid gases and heavy hydrocarbons from the recovered natural gas.
The next step in processing is determined by what type of transport the gas will undergo, and specifications are met according to the transportation system. For LNG, additional processing is required before the condensation of the gas to remove the threat of crystallization in the heat exchangers in the liquefaction plant. When chemical conversion is used to liquefy natural gas, the conversion process determines which preliminary process must be used. Additionally, fractionation between methane and heavier hydrocarbons is performed during liquefaction. This way, after regasification the fuel can be loaded directing into the distribution network of pipelines.
Natural gas is liquefied by lowering the temperature of the hydrocarbon to approximately -260 degrees Fahrenheit (-160 degrees Celsius). This temperature drop liquefies the methane present in the natural gas, making transportation at atmospheric pressure in the form of LNG possible. LNG is mainly constituted of methane and generally contains ethane, as well. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) may also be present in the LNG.