South Baltic Gas Forum
5 - 9 September 2011, Gdańsk, Poland

Liquefied natural gas

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas (predominantly methane, CH4, with some mixture of ethane C2H6) that has been cooled down to liquid form for ease and safety of non-pressurized storage or transport. It takes up about 1/600th the volume of natural gas in the gaseous state (at standard conditions for temperature and pressure). It is odorless, colorless, non-toxic and non-corrosive. Hazards include flammability after vaporization into a gaseous state, freezing and asphyxia. The liquefaction process involves removal of certain components, such as dust, acid gases, helium, water, and heavy hydrocarbons, which could cause difficulty downstream. The natural gas is then condensed into a liquid at close to atmospheric pressure by cooling it to approximately -162 ĀC (-260 ĀF); maximum transport pressure is set at around 25 kPa (4 psi).
For the purpose of comparison of different fuels the heating value may be expressed in terms of energy per volume which is known as the energy density expressed in MJ/litre. The density of LNG is roughly 0.41 kg/litre to 0.5 kg/litre, depending on temperature, pressure, and composition, compared to water at 1.0 kg/litre. Using the median value of 0.45 kg/litre, the typical energy density values are 22.5 MJ/litre (based on higher heating value) or 20.3 MJ/litre (based on lower heating value).
Experiments on the properties of gases started early in the seventeenth century. By the middle of the seventeenth century Robert Boyle had derived the inverse relationship between the pressure and the volume of gases. About the same time, Guillaume Amontons started looking into temperature effects on gas. Various gas experiments continued for the next 200 years. During that time there were efforts to liquefy gases. Many new facts on the nature of gases had been discovered. For example, early in the nineteenth century Cagniard de la Tour had shown there was a temperature above which a gas could not be liquefied. There was a major push in the mid to late nineteenth century to liquefy all gases. A number of scientists including Michael Faraday, James Joule, and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), did experiments in this area. In 1886 Karol Olszewski liquefied methane, the primary constituent of natural gas. By 1900 all gases had been liquefied except helium which was liquefied in 1908.
There are two processes for liquefying natural gas in large quantities. The first is the cascade process, in which the natural gas is cooled by another gas which in turn has been cooled by still another gas, hence named the "cascade" process. There are usually two cascade cycles prior to the liquid natural gas cycle. The other method is the Linde process, with a variation of the Linde process, called the Claude process, being sometimes used. In this process, the gas is cooled regeneratively by continually passing it through an orifice until it is cooled to temperatures at which it liquefies. The cooling of gas by expanding it through an orifice was developed by James Joule and William Thomson and is known as the Joule–Thomson effect. Lee Twomey used the cascade process for his patents.
The US LNG industry restarted in 1965 when a series of new plants were built in the U.S. The building continued through the 1970s. These plants were not only used for peak-shaving, as in Cleveland, but also for base-load supplies for places that never had natural gas prior to this. A number of import facilities were built on the East Coast in anticipation of the need to import energy via LNG. However, a recent boom in U.S. natural gas production (2010-2014), enabled by hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), has many of these import facilities being considered as export facilities. The first U.S. LNG export was completed in early 2016.

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