Experts anticipate that rising crude oil prices – as well as the increasing decoupling of natural gas and crude oil prices – will continue to drive the global LNG market as well as growing regional markets. In addition, stricter environmental regulations for pollutant emissions, above all in the transport sector (especially in shipping), urgently require alternatives that can be fulfilled through the use of natural gas.
Cooling to minus 162 degrees Celsius
Just like crude oil, most natural gas deposits are located far away from their actual point of use. At present, over 90 percent of natural gas is fed through long pipelines to power plants, industrial facilities and homes. But once the distance in relation to the volume of gas to be transported becomes too high, this ceases to be economically viable due to the high costs of construction, materials and compressor stations. To efficiently transport natural gas, it is liquefied by cooling it to minus 162 degrees Celsius. This reduces its volume some 600-fold.
Globally, there are circa 70 so-called world-scale plants with a capacity of some ten million tonnes per year. They are directly connected to large natural gas deposits and produce LNG for export purposes. In addition to the globally oriented LNG trade, construction of regional and local infrastructures is becoming increasingly significant, just as is the development of deposits that are difficult to access.
Efficient technologies and innovative complete solutions
To efficiently use natural gas sources that are difficult to access, liquefaction technologies are constantly evolving. Many natural gas deposits are located offshore and can only be accessed via floating platforms or extraction ships. Linde is collaborating with partners on so-called FPSO (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading) units so that LNG can be produced far out at sea.
Liquid natural gas trade routes
As of distances of several thousand kilometres, natural gas transport is only economically viable via ship, i.e. special LNG tankers. Approximately 200 of these tankers now distribute liquefied natural gas all around the world.