Given volatile natural gas prices and increased regulation by federal and state governments, the natural gas measurement industry has assumed an “every drop counts” approach to operations. As a result, issues such as measurement error and unaccounted-for (UAF) gas are under much closer scrutiny.
Production, gathering, midstream, pipeline, and distribution companies are all responsible for managing UAF. Long gone are the days when the cost and impact of UAF was passed directly to the customer, with virtually no requirements for managing and reducing costs associated with the loss.
Historically, UAF has resulted from a combination of factors, but current industry trends have introduced new complexities to the issue. For instance, growing interest in shale plays has given rise to many company mergers and acquisitions, which have resulted in diversified oil and gas operations. An increasing number of producers and midstream companies must now track and balance multiple fluids in their systems, including natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs), and “heavier” hydrocarbons (i.e., longer-chain hydrocarbon molecules). At the same time, measurement departments are faced with increasingly ambitious UAF loss targets.
In light of these industry dynamics, reviewing the latest concerns with measurement errors and UAF issues, and the processes for identifying and mitigating them, has become imperative.