The earth has enormous quantities of natural gas, but much of it is in areas far from where the gas is needed. To move this cleaner-burning fuel across oceans, natural gas must be converted into liquefied natural gas (LNG), a process called liquefaction.

What is LNG – liquefied natural gas?

LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to –260° F (–162° C), changing it from a gas into a liquid that is 1/600th of its original volume. This reduction in volume enables the gas to be transported economically over long distances.

Liquefaction plants

 LNG liquefaction plants are generally classified as baseload or peak shaving, depending on their purpose and size. The process for the liquefaction of natural gas is essentially the same as that used in modern domestic refrigerators, but on a massive scale. A refrigerant gas is compressed, cooled, condensed, and let down in pressure through a valve that reduces its temperature by the Joule-Thomson effect. The refrigerant gas is then used to cool the feed gas. The temperature of the feed gas is eventually reduced to −161°C, the temperature at which methane, the main constituent of natural gas, liquefies. At this temperature, all the other hydrocarbons in the natural gas will also be in liquid form. In the LNG process, constituents of the natural gas (propane, ethane, and methane) are typically used as refrigerants either individually or as a mixture. Feed pretreatment and refrigerant component recovery are normally included in the LNG liquefaction facility. LPG and condensate may be recovered as byproducts.

How do we use LNG?

LNG is returned to a gaseous state at LNG import and regasification terminals around the world. Once it has been warmed to become natural gas, it is dispersed through pipelines for use by homes and businesses. It can be used in a variety of ways: Residential uses for natural gas include cooking, heating homes and generating electricity, while commercial uses for natural gas include heating, generating electricity, manufacturing products like fertilizers, paints and medicines, and occasionally fueling commercial vehicles.

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