LNG

LNG

LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas, CH4) is a natural gas in a liquid state, i.e. at a temperature below -162°C (boiling point of methane, the main LNG component). LNG is therefore the result of a technological process involving the processing of natural gas. During liquefaction, the volume decreases more than 600 times, thus increasing the “energy density” of the liquefied natural gas. Liquefaction enables efficient storage of natural gas in relatively limited volume tanks and transport of natural gas in the form of LNG over long distances without the need for a pipeline network.

The process of trade and use of LNG is brought down to several points: extraction of raw natural gas, its purification, liquefaction of natural gas into the form of LNG, LNG loading and sea transport, unloading LNG at an import terminal, storage and re-gasification, and then introduction into the natural gas transmission network. If the regasification process is omitted, natural gas in liquefied form (LNG) shall be transported to end users by cryogenic tankers or by rail.

The share of natural gas in the production of global primary energy is approximately 22%, with 60% of natural gas transport in international trade via the pipeline network and 40% in the form of LNG. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that this proportion will be reversed in 2040 and that the share of LNG in global natural gas consumption will be around 14%.

The main producers and exporters of LNG include countries in the Middle East, North and South America and the Far East. The list of the largest LNG exporters includes countries such as Qatar, Australia, Malaysia, the United States and Russia. The largest importers include Japan, China, South Korea, India and Taiwan.

The combustion of LNG produces almost half as much carbon dioxide as the combustion of hard coal or lignite.

LNG - Why is it worth using?

  • Safety – the liquefied natural gas is lighter than air and evaporates quickly in case of a leak. There is no possibility of contamination of the environment (sea water, soil) in case of a leakage of LNG.
  • Ecology – LNG is an ecological fuel whose combustion generates much less pollution than other fossil fuels (crude oil, coal).
  • Availability – constantly developing LNG market enables stable supply of this product.
  • Efficiency and ease of storage – thanks to the reduced volume LNG can be easily stored.
  • Saving – lower operating costs compared to many other energy carriers.

The first liquefaction of natural gas was carried out in the 19th century by an English physicist and chemist Michael Faraday.

Applications

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is becoming increasingly available on global markets, allowing diversification of natural gas supply sources. There are two forms of LNG applications. The first, traditional one consists in regasification of liquefied natural gas and then its injection into the existing transmission network of a given country. The second assumes supplying this raw material in the liquefied form to end users – it is the so-called small scale LNG. The end user may be, among others, the industry in the broad sense, road and sea transport.

Industry

Industrial LNG can be used in many different sectors. The combustion of LNG enables, among other things, the drying process in such industries as agriculture, wood industry or mining. Another application of liquefied natural gas is its use in fuel cells producing electricity (cogeneration) or heat (production of technological steam). On the other hand, LNG can be used as a source of cold, e.g. in the petrochemical industry (in low-temperature hydrocarbon gas fractionation plants) or in medicine (for the preservation of blood and tissue for transplantation). This raw material is also used as fuel for power plants.

Road transport

In road transport, LNG is mainly used for truck tractors, but the use of this fuel in public transport vehicles (LNG buses) is becoming increasingly popular.

An unquestionable advantage of using LNG as a fuel in truck-tractors covering considerable distances is the ecological nature of this energy source. Combustion of LNG emits less CO2 than combustion of diesel oil, and the emission of other, even more harmful substances is reduced to a minimum. Compared to other proposed energy sources for trucks, e.g. hydrogen or electricity, LNG trucks are much cheaper and, above all, offer much larger ranges. The development of this market depends mainly on investments in the appropriate refuelling infrastructure, which can be achieved, inter alia, through legislative support from governments (e.g. subsidies for the purchase of LNG vehicles, low rates of excise duty on natural gas, etc.).

Shipping

LNG is not only a product transported by sea, but also a self-contained fuel for driving vessels. The process of filling ships’ fuel tanks with liquefied natural gas is called bunkering. Bunkering can be carried out from one vessel to another (ship to ship) or from tanker to ship (truck to ship).

LNG propulsion is a breakthrough in maritime transport: it emits 20-25% less CO2 and greenhouse gases and reduces emissions of sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and particulates by almost 100%, as well as reducing maintenance costs. This is all the more important as, from 2020, maritime transport is covered by new emission and fuel quality standards set by the International Maritime Organisation. It calls for a significant reduction in the sulphation of fuels used both for the propulsion of vessels (gas tankers) and for electricity generation (e.g. in the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea).

Depending on the extraction location, LNG may vary in terms of methane content - the main component of liquefied natural gas.