Question: Is it possible to drill for propane, butane
Short answer: People do it all the time.
Methane is the largest component of what we call
Propane and butane also are gases, and may be found
in smaller amounts in natural gas.
Because of their value as fuel and their high energy
content per cubic foot -- about 2,500 Btu for propane and 3,250
Btu for butane -- they're often separated from the gas stream and
sold as natural gas liquids.
By contrast, methane has just over 1,000 Btu per
For added confusion, the second-largest component
of natural gas after methane is called "ethane." Ethane also could
be liquefied and sold as fuel, but it's more commonly used as a
feedstock for petrochemicals.
Natural gas liquids are the opposite of unnatural
gas liquids (just kidding). They are often referred to as NGLs (that's
Propane and butane don't occur naturally in separate,
large accumulations, so there's no such thing as drilling a propane
well or a butane well.
Not that long ago, NGLs were much, much more valuable
than high-methane natural gas, relatively speaking. Some operators
justified their drilling programs by the amount of NGLs they expected
So, in that sense, it is possible to drill where
you plan to recover more-than-usual amounts of propane and butane.
-- DAVID BROWN