The U.S. natural gas liquids (NGL) market is surging – driven by a combination of high NGL prices relative to natural gas, growing production in rich-gas shale plays and the increased use of cryogenic gas processing technologies, according to a new report by Bentek Energy LLC.

Bentek’s report, “The Rich Get Richer: Shale Gas and NGLs,” examines the net impacts of a regional shift in NGL production and the consequences it will have on regional NGL markets.

“A large portion of financial windfall from shale-gas production is flowing to companies near rich plays such as the Eagle Ford and Granite Wash,” said Bentek managing director E. Russell (Rusty) Braziel. “With new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico currently chilled by a regulatory deep freeze in the wake of the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster, NGL production is effectively shifting westward.”

The geographical shift of the NGL production epicenter is driving new midstream infrastructure investments in pipelines, gas processing plants and other facilities to serve an area known as “the liquids fairway,” the report notes. Most of the prolific rich gas and crude oil plays are within the fairway, which runs from South Texas to Saskatchewan, Canada, according to Bentek.

Over the last 12 to 18 months, U.S. drilling activities have shifted to the fairway, and, as a result, both inlet volumes and GPM (gallons-per-thousand-cubic-feet) are increasing, the research indicates. More than 75% of incremental NGL production added over the past six months has been in the Texas Inland region.

Rich-gas plays in this region, such as the Eagle Ford and the Texas side of the Granite Wash, plus associated gas from crude plays in the Anadarko and Permian basins, are responsible for a majority of the growth, according to the report.