Liquified natural gas is projected to become a key source of energy in the coming decades. Propelled by its undeniable advantages (it’s the cleanest fossil fuel, abundant and complements renewable energy sources), LNG is redefining the market as it helps provide energy during demand peaks for a global scenario.
Find out what LNG gas is exactly, what uses does this liquified gas present, and what type of LNG tank is the best to store it.
What is LNG?
Liquefied natural gas (also known as LNG) is natural gas cooled to a liquid state for the purpose of easier storage and transportation.
When natural gas reaches about -260° Fahrenheit, through a liquefaction process using cryogenic heat exchangers, it becomes 600 times smaller than natural gas. This facilitates its management and has become its main advantage.
While its liquefaction process was developed in the 19th century, it’s today’s uses of liquefied natural gas that have boosted this element. Thanks to this process, it’s easier to transport LNG through long distances (for instance, from the U.S.A to South Korea) without using gas pipelines, which are not feasible in such cases.
Demand for LNG has grown over the past years and is expected to continue growing. For instance, U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas continued to grow in the first six months of 2021, at an average that marks an increase of 42%, or 2.8 Bcf/d, compared with the same period in 2020 (following figures by the U.S. Department of Energy’s LNG Monthly).
The main advantages of liquefied natural gas include:
- Vast resources at a global scale compared to other fossil fuels
- The capacity to easily distribute and store it, facilitating having access to it whenever patterns of demand shift.
- A greener option compared to other fossil fuels, generating cleaner burning than other alternatives.
Main uses of liquefied natural gas
The main use of liquified natural gas consists of its power as an energy supply.
energy supply for the following scenarios:
- Domestic heating. Liquefied natural gas has become the right answer for peak consumer demands above normal parameters.
- The industrial sector uses LNG as fuel for manufacturing diverse items such as electronic devices, fabrics, pharmaceutical products or plastics, among many others.
- The transportation sector is beginning to consider LNG as an alternative to petrol.
Storing liquefied natural gas
LNG is a clear and non-corrosive liquid which weighs less than water and is made up of at least 85% methane. It presents several characteristics that must be taken into account when looking for storage alternatives.
Different containers and its characteristics
In order to store it, the right LNG tank is needed, using cryogenic technology to guarantee its optimal and safe storage until LNG is needed.
These systems usually include above-ground, low-pressure tanks (less than 10 kilopascals), with double walls for enhanced protection and a vacuum that provides thermal insulation and thus maintains the cold temperatures needed. All in all, small amounts of heat enter the system and must be safely removed periodically.
Typically, an LNG tank can have a capacity ranging from 1,000 to 30,000 m³. The bigger tanks present a cylindrical shape with a domed roof, while smaller versions may be stored in both horizontal or vertical pressure vessels, where pressure may range from less than 50 to over 1,700 kPa (7.3–246.6 psi).
Today, an additional high-nickel steel wall or an outer tank made of concrete are often added to provide extra containment.
We design our gas storage tanks with double-wall steel structures using high tech insulating materials (cellular glass, expanded perlite, rockwool, etc.).
All the cryogenic storage equipment we produce complies with the most recognized quality and safety certificates on an international level. Our standards include:
- Mechanical and seismic design: API620, API650, ASME and EN14620, EN14015, EUROCODE
- External access: EN ISO14122-1/3 and OSHA 1910.23/24
- Other regulations including EIGA/CGA/127/13/E and NFPA 59A
Regarding liquefied natural gas, a recent success story in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, (Bolivia) highlights our role as trusted partners.
This project was both extremely challenging on many levels and hugely gratifying in terms of the benefits it has brought to the area.
This Flat-Bottom Cryogenic Tank is for the storage of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). This type of installation is known as a “virtual pipeline”. It consists of liquefying natural gas for liquid distribution in areas where it is difficult to install a pipeline network.
The main issue that made our task more daunting was the location itself: deep in the jungle, high in the mountains, far from any urban centres and difficult to access. It was also challenging to find qualified workers in the area. Added to that was the task of building a base camp in the jungle, where heat and rain were constant obstacles.
Transport was also a huge logistical challenge. Parts could not be sent gradually so over 25 containers from all over Spain had to be put on one ship. Not only that, Bolivia has no port, meaning two customs processes, one in Bolivia, but prior to that another upon entry into neighbouring Chile. Getting the trucks to the site wasn’t easy either, given the nature of the terrain.
The project was a success, however, both for our clients and for the environment, allowing access to natural gas to many citizens who have opted to make the switch from heavy hydrocarbons (fuel oil, diesel) to natural gas.
All in all, a challenging project that became a success that benefited both our satisfied customer as well as the local environment.
Want to learn more about LNG and its storage possibilities? Discover our Reference list for cryogenic tanks.