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Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas that has been converted liquefied for ease of storage or transport.

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What is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?

LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is natural gas that has been liquefied for transport and storage.

Methane has a very low density and is therefore costly to transport and store1.  High pressure gas pipelines can be used to transport gas on land or for short ocean crossings.  Liquefying natural gas makes it feasible to transport gas economically across oceans or in a few applications by truck to small scattered consumers.  LNG occupies 600 times less space than the gas, but must be kept at temperatures below 160 degrees celsius and be pressurised.  At the receiving terminal, LNG is unloaded and stored before being regasified and transported by pipe to the end-users2.

The four main elements of the LNG value chain are1:

  1. Exploration and Production – LNG is a transportation method for natural gas and therefore natural gas must first be produced and transported to an LNG facility for processing
  2. Liquefaction – this process converts gas to liquid by lowering the temperature of the gas to approximately -260 degrees Fahrenheit (-160 degrees Celsius)
  3. Shipping – special tankers with insulation and autorefrigeration keep the natural gas in liquid form as it is transported over massive bodies of water.
  4. Storage and Regasification – once the LNG reaches its destination it is stored or regasified back to its gaseous state. The regasification process involves passing the LNG through a series of vaporizers that reheat the fuel.

 

 

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Context

The demand for LNG is rising in markets with limited domestic gas production or pipeline imports. This increase is primarily from growing Asian economies and is particularly driven by their desire for cleaner fuels; and due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants. The largest producer of LNG is Qatar, with a liquefaction capacity in 2013 of roughly one-quarter of the global LNG production3.  Japan has always been the largest importer of LNG and in 2013 consumed over 37% of global LNG trade.

LNG projects require very large amounts of upfront capital  and, because of this, suppliers usually enter into long-term agreements ( up to 15 to 20 years) with buyers before taking their investment decision.

The extraction process has environmental and social issues to consider. These concerns are normally due to the energy inputs and local environmental impacts of such large scale industrial development.  Additionally, while natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, it does produce CO2 when it is combusted and is a potent greenhouse gas itself, leading to climate-related concerns.

There have been two accidents (Cleveland, 1944 and Skikda, 2004) connected to LNG, but, in general, liquefaction, LNG-Shipping, -Storage, and -Regasification have been proven to be extremely safe.  Only the Cleveland incident resulted in any loss of life to the general public; moreover, that event was 70 years ago and was before the effect of cryogenic temperatures on steels was understood.

 

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External resources

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Natural Gas Supply Association

International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers

International Gas Union

International Association for Natural Gas 

INTERNATIONAL OR PROMINENT INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION

American Gas Association

Interstate Natural Gas Association of America

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA)

Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE)

European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG)

RESEARCH INSTITUTION

Gas Technology Institute

Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES)

Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI)

Center for Liquefied Natural gas (CLNG)

Energy Research Insitute of Russian Academy of Sciences

Asia Pacific Energy Research Center (APERC) 

ACADEMIC JOURNAL

Oil and Gas Journal

Natural Gas Industry B

HISTORY

NaturalGas.org

POLITICS

HarvardIOP

The Wall Street Journal

The Economist

ECONOMICS

International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE)

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Union of Concerned Scientists

American Gas Association (AGA)

David Suzuki Foundation

International Energy Agency (IEA)

BUSINESS ANALYSIS

Interfax Global Energy

NaturalGas.org

HEALTH IMPACT

American Petroleum Institute

Union of Concerned Scientists

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

SUSTAINABILITY

Gasunie 

OTHER INTERESTING ESSAYS/ARTICLES

Natural Gas Europe

Cedigaz

Planete Energies

  1. National Energy Technology Laboratory (2005). Liquefied natural gas: Understanding the basic facts. http://www.netl.doe.gov/File%20Library/Research/Energy%20Analysis/Publications/LNG-PrimerUpdate.pdf 
  2. Shell (2011). What is LNG? http://www.shell.com/global/future-energy/natural-gas/liquefied-natural-gas/what-is-lng.html 
  3. International Energy Agency (2014). FAQs: Natural gas. http://www.iea.org/aboutus/faqs/gas/
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