In the United States, approximately three million miles of pipeline transports natural gas to homes and businesses in need of energy. But what about consumers located far from the distribution network or in areas where installing pipelines is impractical?
The solution is liquefied natural gas (LNG).
What is LNG?
LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to –260° F (–162° C) to condensate and convert the fuel from its gas form into a liquid. This process dramatically reduces the total volume to just 1/600th of the original gaseous state, making LNG easy and efficient to store in special tanks.
Once liquefied and tanked, LNG can be safely transported overland and overseas, on trucks, trains and specialized oceangoing vessels.
Safe Transport of LNG
The natural gas industry has been liquefying and transporting LNG for over half a century. Over this time frame, advancements in regulations, standards, technology, and design have made the transport of LNG safer than ever.
Vehicles and ships are outfitted with cutting-edge leak detection equipment, emergency shutdown systems, multiple layers of protection, and sophisticated risk-reduction protocols.
The Regasification Process
Once LNG reaches its final destination, it must be converted back into gas before it can be consumed by residents, businesses, and industry. This process, called regasification, takes place at onshore or offshore regasification plants.
LNG is heated using seawater heat transfer, air vaporizers, or submerged combustion vaporizers. For onshore regasification, plants are often located adjacent to power generation plants or other industrial facilities for added efficiency, as excess heat extracted from cooling can be repurposed to vaporize LNG.
Distribution and Delivery
Once LNG has been returned to its gaseous state it can be injected directly into the natural gas pipeline for transport and delivery across the distribution network. There is no difference between natural gas that enters the pipeline directly from the gas fields and natural gas that has been liquefied and then subsequently evaporated.
Uses for LNG
LNG can be used for every application suitable for natural gas. In the home, natural gas uses include ambient heating, cooking, hot water heating, clothes drying, and emergency electricity generation. Commercial uses include heating, cooling, power generation, fuel for commercial vehicle fleets, and a wide range of manufacturing applications across chemical, pharmaceutical, and other sectors.
Liquefied natural gas technology is also a huge boon for the US economy and energy independence. The United States is one of the top exporters of LNG in the world and is poised to soon take over the top position as more facilities are completed and commissioned.