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Condensate vs. Natural Gas Liquids: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 22, 2024
Condensate is a low-density mixture of hydrocarbon liquids present in natural gas, while natural gas liquids (NGLs) are components separated from natural gas like ethane, propane, and butane.

Key Differences

Condensate, often found in natural gas reservoirs, is primarily composed of pentanes and heavier hydrocarbons. These are liquids at room temperature and become vapor under lower pressures or higher temperatures. In contrast, natural gas liquids (NGLs) are specific hydrocarbon components extracted from natural gas, including ethane, propane, butane, isobutane, and pentane. While condensate refers to a mixture, NGLs refer to distinct compounds with individual properties and uses.
In the production process, condensate is separated from natural gas as a byproduct during the cooling and condensation phase. It is a valuable resource for its high-quality and low-density properties, often used in diluting heavier crude oils. On the other hand, natural gas liquids are separated from natural gas in processing facilities through procedures like absorption, cryogenic processes, or fractionation. NGLs, being more versatile, find use in various sectors, including petrochemical production, domestic heating, and as blending components for vehicle fuels.
Market-wise, the value of condensate hinges on its similarity to light crude oil and its usability in the petrochemical industry. Its pricing often tracks that of crude oil. Conversely, natural gas liquids have a more diverse market, with each component (like ethane, propane, etc.) finding unique applications and market dynamics. For instance, ethane is primarily used as a petrochemical feedstock, while propane is widely used for heating and cooking.
The environmental impact of condensate and NGLs also differs. Condensate, like other oil products, poses risks of spills and environmental contamination. The extraction and transportation of condensate require strict regulatory compliance. NGLs, while also necessitating careful handling, often burn cleaner than other fossil fuels. For example, propane and butane are known for their relatively low emissions, making them preferable in certain energy applications.

Comparison Chart


Mixture of hydrocarbons, mainly pentanes
Separate hydrocarbons like ethane, propane

Extraction Process

Separated from natural gas as a byproduct
Extracted and processed from natural gas

Primary Uses

Diluting crude oil, feedstock for petrochemicals
Varied uses in heating, cooking, fuel blending

Market Dynamics

Tracks crude oil pricing
Individual markets for each component

Environmental Impact

Potential for spills, contamination
Cleaner burning, lower emissions

Condensate and Natural Gas Liquids Definitions


Condensate is a low-density liquid formed from the cooling of natural gas.
The refinery processed the condensate into lighter petroleum products.

Natural Gas Liquids

In the energy sector, natural gas liquids are known for their use as feedstock in petrochemical manufacturing.
Ethane, one of the natural gas liquids, is a key raw material for producing ethylene.


In the petroleum industry, condensate describes the liquid hydrocarbons that are present in raw natural gas.
The plant separates condensate from natural gas to derive valuable lighter fuels.

Natural Gas Liquids

Natural gas liquids are often mentioned in the context of natural gas processing and transportation.
The pipeline's design was optimized for the efficient movement of natural gas liquids.


Condensate is often used to refer to a mixture of pentanes and heavier hydrocarbons extracted from natural gas.
The shipment of condensate was vital for blending with the heavy crude oil.

Natural Gas Liquids

Natural gas liquids refer to the hydrocarbon liquids extracted from natural gas, distinct from methane.
The processing plant's expansion increased its capacity to handle more natural gas liquids.


In a broader sense, condensate can mean any liquid formed by the condensation of a gas.
The windows were covered in condensate on the cold winter morning.

Natural Gas Liquids

Natural gas liquids comprise the heavier molecules in natural gas, separated for their economic value.
Propane, a natural gas liquid, is commonly used in residential heating systems.


Condensate refers to the hydrocarbon liquids that condense from natural gas when pressure decreases or temperature increases.
Condensate tanks are essential in natural gas fields to store the liquid byproducts.

Natural Gas Liquids

Natural gas liquids are components of natural gas that are separated in liquid form, including ethane, propane, and butane.
Natural gas liquids are transported separately for use in various industries.


The liquid resulting from condensation of a gas, such as a product of distillation or another method of separation.


The part of a natural gas mixture that consists of volatile hydrocarbons and can be easily condensed.


(physics) A liquid that is the product of condensation of a gas, i.e. of steam.


(chemistry) The product of a condensation reaction.


(physics) Any of various condensed quantum states.


To condense.


(obsolete) Made dense; condensed.


Made dense; condensed.
Water . . . thickened or condensate.


To condense.


Atmospheric moisture that has condensed because of cold


What is condensate in the context of natural gas?

Condensate is the liquid hydrocarbons, mainly pentanes and heavier, that condense out of natural gas.

Can condensate be used as a fuel?

Yes, condensate can be refined and used as a light fuel or mixed with heavier crude oil.

What are the main uses of natural gas liquids?

NGLs are used for heating, cooking, as petrochemical feedstocks, and in fuel blending.

Is condensate a type of crude oil?

No, it's a byproduct of natural gas, but it shares some characteristics with light crude oil.

How is condensate extracted from natural gas?

Condensate is extracted by lowering the pressure or increasing the temperature of natural gas, causing it to condense.

How are NGLs transported?

NGLs are usually transported via pipelines, rail, or trucks in liquid form.

Are natural gas liquids environmentally friendly?

NGLs like propane and butane burn cleaner than many other fossil fuels, making them relatively more environmentally friendly.

What role does condensate play in the petrochemical industry?

It's used as a feedstock for producing various petrochemicals and as a diluent for heavy crude oils.

Can NGLs be used in residential settings?

Yes, propane and butane are commonly used in residential heating and cooking.

How are natural gas liquids (NGLs) different from natural gas?

NGLs are specific hydrocarbon components like ethane and propane separated from natural gas, whereas natural gas is primarily methane.

Is condensate more valuable than natural gas?

Typically, yes, because it can be processed into high-value petroleum products.

Is condensate handling environmentally risky?

Yes, like crude oil, condensate poses spill and contamination risks.

What is the primary component of natural gas liquids?

NGLs primarily consist of ethane, propane, butane, and isobutane.

Do NGLs contribute significantly to the energy sector?

Yes, NGLs are a key part of the energy mix, especially for heating and as petrochemical feedstocks.

How is condensate priced in the market?

Its pricing often follows trends in the crude oil market.

What distinguishes the market for NGLs from other hydrocarbons?

NGLs have diverse uses, leading to different market dynamics for each component.

Are all natural gas liquids the same?

No, each NGL like ethane, propane, and butane has unique properties and uses.

Do condensate and crude oil have the same uses?

No, while both can be refined into fuels and other products, condensate is often used to dilute heavier crude oils.

Can condensate be found in all natural gas fields?

No, its presence varies depending on the composition of the gas field.

Are NGLs a significant source of revenue for gas producers?

Yes, due to their various applications and market demand, NGLs add considerable value to natural gas production.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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