Natural Gas Liquids

Natural Gas LiquidsRaw natural gas as it comes from the wellhead is mostly comprised of methane (the largest constituent of household natural gas), but also contains various heavier hydrocarbons. The heavier hydrocarbons consist of ethane, propane, butanes and pentanes plus, and are called natural gas liquids (NGLs).

NGLs are an important component of the Canadian energy mix. Ethane is a feedstock for the Canadian petrochemical industry. Propane is also used as a feedstock for the petrochemical industry and is used for space heating in the residential and commercial sectors. Butanes (iso-butane and normal butane) have various petrochemical applications and are used by oil refineries for the production of refined petroleum products such as gasoline. Butanes are also employed as a blending component, or diluent, to decrease the viscosity of heavy oil and bitumen to ease transport through pipelines. Most of the pentanes plus produced are used as a diluent for this purpose. In Canada, most NGLs are produced at natural gas processing plants, with the remainder produced as a byproduct of oil refining or bitumen upgrading. Hundreds of field plants, located in the gas-producing areas of Alberta, plus several plants in B.C. account for the majority of ethane, propane, butanes and pentanes plus production.

The National Energy Board regulates the export of ethane, propane and butanes. Export orders or licences are required to export these NGLs from Canada. Holders of export authorizations report monthly on their export activities to the Board.


The monthly export information for propane and butanes will continue to be available on our website. If you have any questions or concerns please contact Regulatory Information and Analysis, Strategy and Analysis Business Unit, National Energy Board at 1-877-825-8441 (Canada and U.S.) or e-mail

Analysis and Publications

For more information on Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs), refer to Canada's Energy Future, Canadian Energy Dynamics and Canadian Energy Overview.

Date modified: