Procurement refers to all of the activities carried out for the purpose of sourcing the natural gas needed to satisfy the country’s consumption needs, and it can be mainly subdivided into production and importation. Production, under the supervision of the Ministry of Productive Activities, includes all activities aimed at locating and producing natural gas. Importation instead regards the purchase from abroad, through producers and third-party sellers, of natural gas required by businesses and by small final users for quantities in excess of those procured through national production.
Natural gas is normally transported through a network of high- and medium-pressure, large-diameter pipelines, that allow for passage across countries and/or sections of the sea that separate the suppliers from the end users. Given the difficulties generated by geopolitical conflict between countries involved in the production-and-distribution chain (particularly in recent decades), the industry has also made use of the tanker transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The LNG is transported in special tanks at very low temperatures to a final destination, where it is converted back to its natural state at a regasification plant.
Storage refers to the accumulation of gas stocks so as to allow supplier companies to respond to needs indicated by market demand, which obviously can be highly seasonal (winter/summer). For the most part, gas is stored underground in depleted reservoir formations of natural gas fields.
Closely related to the storage activity, the dispatch activity entails organising transit over the network so as to ensure a proper balance between demand and supply, and the properly balanced availability of gas to all consumers.
Distribution refers to the transport of the gas through local networks of low-pressure, reduced-diameter gas pipelines, for delivery to the final user, whether it be a business, a thermoelectric plant or a household. The maintenance and management of the physical network (with the related charges) and the measurement service are part of the distribution activity.
The final phase of the production-and-distribution chain is the sale of natural gas to the final user. This final business activity remunerates all of the other activities.