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Data Set #066

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About cumulative gas storage:

    Natural gas is an important fuel source in the United States, produced by wells drilled into rocks in the Gulf Coast states, in California, and along the continental shelf (among other locales). Natural gas consumption is currently running about 20 trillion cubic feet annually and is expected to increase another 10 Tcf over the next few decades as consumers switch from oil and electric heat to natural gas, and as new demands for natural gas crop up (such as gas fired electric generators).

    Gas produced during the low demand summer months must be stored until needed, which presents a big challenge to the gas industry. Above ground storage tanks are useful and convenient on a small scale, but most natural gas is stored underground. Underground reservoirs for gas include oil fields that have been depleted of their petroleum (the extraction wells can be easily reversed and turned into injection wells) and abandoned salt mines (common in the Gulf Coast states where natural gas is produced from nearby rock formations). The current US underground storage capacity is over 3 trillion cubic feet, as can be seen from the data.

    The data show the variation in cumulative natural gas storage capacity in the US (almost all underground) from 1932 to 2000. New storage capacity is added to the previous year's total to create an ever increasing series of values, though not at a constant rate. Much of today's storage capacity came online from approximately 1950-1980, as reflected in the steeper portion of the S-shaped distribution of values. The shape of the cumulative storage capacity curve reflects the variability in new storage additions with time. Students could be asked to sketch this other curve (time versus additions) based on the shape of the cumulative curve.

    The student can analyze the data using a logistic model, a form of exponential growth where the rate of growth decreases linearly with increasing time (in this case). Trial and error may be appropriate to finding a well-behaved model, or the student may have a logistic regression algorithm on their technology of choice. What is the projected limit to gas storage according to the model? Logistic growth is common in many natural organisms; their size or abundance is often limited to physiology or environmental conditions (a fixed food supply). Is there really some "physical limit" to underground gas storage capacity, and if so, what might that be?

    Source: American Gas Association's report, The Evolution of Underground Natural Gas Storage: Changes in Utilization Patterns, prepared by International Gas Consulting, Inc. (whose website contains a condensed version of this report).

     
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US Cumulative underground gas storage capacity, 1932-2000
Source: International Gas Consulting, Inc.
volume of natural gas in billions cubic feet (Gcf)
   
year Gcf
1932 12
1933 12
1934 12
1935 18
1936 53
1937 88
1938 88
1939 88
1940 123
1941 187
1942 193
1943 199
1944 199
1945 216
1946 216
1947 363
1948 404
1949 474
1950 550
1951 708
1952 719
1953 854
1954 906
1955 930
1956 930
1957 994
1958 1135
1959 1205
1960 1246
1961 1328
1962 1386
1963 1561
1964 1626
1965 1678
1966 1854
1967 1860
1968 1912
1969 1930
1970 2111
1971 2175
1972 2252
1973 2398
1974 2415
1975 2538
1976 2678
1977 2725
1978 2790
1979 2795
1980 2889
1981 3023
1982 3047
1983 3047
1984 3047
1985 3047
1986 3047
1987 3053
1988 3053
1989 3064
1990 3105
1991 3123
1992 3158
1993 3246
1994 3246
1995 3292
1996 3310
1997 3310
1998 3322
1999 3380
2000 3404
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