LNG: Flexible Supplement to Pipeline Gas
Whether it is worthwhile liquefying natural gas and transporting it in this state is by no means a new question. Experts of E.ON Ruhrgas already gave this question deep thought over 30 years ago and could see the great potential of gas liquefaction technology. With it, natural gas can be cooled to minus 161.5 °C, thus reducing its volume considerably and making it easier to transport in large quantities.
600 m³ become one cubic metre
The cooling process in fact transforms 600 m³ of natural gas into just 1 m³ of liquefied gas. In this state, LNG (liquefied natural gas) can be transported at near atmospheric pressure in special tanker vessels with insulated storage tanks. Once it arrives at the port of destination, it is then heated in a simple process and returned to its gaseous state so it can be transported by pipeline to the users.
Low-cost alternative to pipeline gas
The reasons are obvious: While the demand for natural gas is continuing to rise in both Germany and the EU, European gas production is declining.
Possible sources of LNG for Europe are the Middle East in particular, as well as West and North Africa. In future, it will be possible to transport LNG by ship from these producer countries to consumers in Europe as a reasonably priced alternative to pipeline gas.
LNG accounts for one quarter of the world's natural gas trade
The technology for liquefying gas in so-called LNG trains in the producer countries and regasifying it at the port of destination is so developed that every year nearly 180 billion m³ of gas are now transported in this way throughout the world. This is roughly one quarter of all gas traded across borders or 6 percent of global gas consumption. Experts expect this figure to rise to 310 billion m³ by 2010.