American Petroleum Institute Adjusts Standards for Natural Gas Storage
The American Petroleum Institute released recommendations updating its standards for natural gas storage.
Washington, D.C.-based American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association representing about 600 oil and natural gas companies, recently released updated guidelines around natural gas storage. The API’s recommendations aim to boost the safety and reliability of the United States energy supply, targeting the nation’s network of more than 500 underground salt caverns and depleted hydrocarbon and aquifer reservoirs.
Natural gas, oil, and LPG storage tanks, Image used courtesy of Adobe Stock
The changes represent the second editions of API’s recommended practice (RP) 1170 and 1171, which have informed federal and state inspections for underground natural gas storage regulations. The former provides new risk management practices for salt cavern facilities that store natural gas, focusing on geomechanical assessments, well design and drilling, and solution mining methods and operations.
RP 1171, on the other hand, applies to depleted natural gas and oil and aquifer reservoir storage facilities, providing specific recommendations around well, reservoir, and fluid management. Per the API’s announcement, the update contains practices for ensuring functional integrity across design, construction, operation, monitoring/maintenance, and documentation.
It’s worth noting that, historically, these two RPs carry significant influence in the U.S. regulatory landscape, having been incorporated into federal pipeline rules managed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The organization’s updated standards help ensure underground storage facilities are designed, maintained, and operated appropriately while improving local communities’ health, safety, and sustainability.
This map tracks the underground natural gas storage facilities scattered across the United States. Image used courtesy of the U.S. Energy Atlas via the Energy Information Administration
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. consumed 30.66 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2021, mainly through the electric power (37% of total consumption) and industrial (33%) sectors. While renewables are gaining a growing share of America’s energy mix, fossil fuels remain king: Natural gas represents 32% of primary energy consumption, while petroleum and coal eat up another 36% and 11%, respectively.
America’s Natural Gas Storage Infrastructure and Current Production Levels
According to the PHMSA, depleted reservoirs or oil fields account for most of the U.S.’s total underground natural gas storage capacity, at 78.2%. Aquifers, which are rock formations (mainly in the Midwest) that have been converted for gas storage, claim a 14.8% share. Meanwhile, the country’s base of about 36 salt cavern facilities accounts for 7% of total storage capacity, primarily situated in states along the Gulf Coast.
Types of underground natural gas storage facilities. Image used courtesy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration
The API’s updated storage recommendations come as U.S. natural gas production has reached record highs in 2022 to meet the growing demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. According to the EIA, dry natural gas production jumped 4% in 2022, with average volumes exceeding 96 billion cubic feet per day.
Storage levels have also returned to historical averages, recording an increase of injections into working natural gas storage in the 2022 injection season, running from April to October.
The latest injection season brought record storage levels in 2022. Image used courtesy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration
The war in Ukraine is a big part of this story, as the U.S. became the top LNG exporter in the first half of 2022 amid a surge in international demand. As of July, it surpassed all other countries in LNG capacity, and its daily exports averaged 11.1 billion cubic feet, per EIA data.