Liquefied natural gas

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Liquefied natural gas tank in Massachusetts

As a liquefied natural gas (abbreviation LNG for English liquefied natural gas or LNG for French gaz naturel liquéfié ) is cooled to -161 to -164 ° C (112-109 K) of liquefied recycled gas referred to. LNG has only about one six hundredth the volume of gaseous natural gas.

LNG / GNL has great advantages, especially for transport and storage purposes. Technically, the natural gas loses its property of being connected to a pipeline and can therefore be transported as a special liquid in special transport containers, ideally suitably designed dewar vessels , on the road , rail and water . Up to now, this type of transport has only played a subordinate role, since the energy requirement for the complex liquefaction in particular is around 10 to 25 percent of the energy content of the gas. The transport economy limit of liquefied natural gas is around 2500 kilometers, below which the transport by natural gas pipeline as compressed natural gas ( CNG, Compressed Natural Gas ) is more economical in terms of energy.

Manufacturing, transportation and storage

Gas tanker LNG Rivers

The natural gas is usually piped from a natural gas production facility to an LNG terminal in a port, where it is stored, processed and liquefied by cooling. Natural gas usually contains a mixture of methane and heavier hydrocarbons as well as nitrogen , carbon dioxide , water and other undesirable components such as sulfur compounds . These components are partially removed before liquefaction, for example to avoid solidification during liquefaction or to meet customer requirements. To this end, processes such as adsorption , absorption and cryogenic rectification are used. After these process steps, the treated natural gas contains almost pure methane with a methane content of approx. 98%. The gaseous natural gas processed in this way is then liquefied into LNG. To do this, the natural gas is cooled down in several steps (with successive compression, cooling under constant pressure, adiabatic relaxation) to a temperature of −162 ° C. The LNG is then pumped onto special ships that go to another LNG terminal and pump the LNG back to shore with the ship's own cargo pumps. The ships, which have been built ever larger in recent years, are also referred to as 2G tankers in accordance with the safety category .

In LNG terminals, the liquefied natural gas is temporarily stored in insulated storage tanks (mostly cylindrical flat-bottom tanks) and under atmospheric pressure until it is transported or regasified.

The LNG is then transported on to another distributor (hub) or directly to long-distance gas companies by reloading it onto smaller tankers or after being converted into a gaseous state in pipelines.

This type of natural gas transport is of particular importance for countries in the Far East, such as Japan, because of the long transport routes . The costs for offshore pipelines from the production facilities for natural gas to these countries would be too high. Together with South Korea and Taiwan , almost 80% of global LNG exports go to these Asian economic powers , with Japan getting almost half of them. Great Britain, Italy and Belgium also import LNG.

Economical meaning

Global sales of liquefied natural gas reached its previous maximum of 245.2 million tons in 2015, and production capacity reached 308 million tons. Qatar is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Qatar's gas industry has an annual production capacity of 77 million tons of LNG and supplies a quarter of global LNG consumption, more than Indonesia, Algeria and Russia (as of 2011). The LNG producer Qatargas works with ExxonMobil , Total , Mitsui , Marubeni , Conoco , Philips and Shell , the producer RasGas (after the industrial city of Ras Laffan in the north of the Qatar peninsula) with ExxonMobil, Korea RasGas LNG , Petronet LNG and Itochu .

At the end of 2015 there was a large oversupply of liquefied natural gas. Qatar had not been able to sell a third of its production capacity and between 25 and 35 million tons of US production had not yet been sold to end users. Three Chinese and one Indian importers tried to resell LNG, which they had undertaken to purchase. Experts estimated that the production capacity will exceed demand by 70 million tons annually, also in the next few years. The construction of further liquefaction plants will even increase the excess production capacity to 150 million tons per year by 2020.


So far there is no landing terminal for LNG in Germany, but preparations are underway and an LNG Infrastructure Ordinance has been passed by the legislator. However, German gas supply companies have acquired stakes in LNG terminals abroad. LNG can be brought to the German market via neighboring countries - Belgium , the Netherlands , or other European countries. The first LNG terminal in Germany could be built in the Schleswig-Holstein port of Brunsbüttel ; alternatively, plans are being pushed ahead in Stade, Lower Saxony . A German LNG Terminal GmbH, as the operator consortium of Gasunie , Vopak and Oiltanking calls itself, is planning a decision on the construction in 2019 [obsolete] ; the commissioning could then Template: future / in 2 yearstake place in 2022 . Plans for the construction of an LNG terminal for Wilhelmshaven are to be examined as part of a study for the expansion of the port .


With the approval of the European Union, the Finnish government has granted investment aid for the construction of a number of LNG terminals on the Finnish coast. The aim is to stimulate competition on the Finnish gas market, which is still entirely dependent on imports from Russia. In addition, the import of LNG is also intended to bring natural gas to regions that have so far been beyond the reach of the pipeline network, which is limited to the extreme south of the country. The first terminal with a capacity of 30,000 m 3 was opened in 2016 at the port of Pori . The terminal under construction in Tornio with a capacity of 50,000 m 3 is to be found in 2018. The start of construction on a third terminal in Hamina with a capacity of 30,000 m 3 is scheduled for 2017.

Political importance

In the course of the debate about security of supply against the background of the Russian-Ukrainian dispute about the price of gas , which has been repeated annually since the turn of 2005/2006, the use of liquefied natural gas to diversify sources of supply and to avoid one-sided dependencies is repeatedly brought up in Europe. Germany does not currently have an LNG terminal, but natural gas importers have long-term reservations at the Gate LNG import terminal in Rotterdam and can obtain regasified LNG from there via pipelines.

Use as fuel


The use of LNG as a fuel to drive internal combustion engines is growing in importance, especially in shipping . This is particularly suitable for liquid gas tankers that transport LNG. In the meantime, however, an advantage is also seen in the use of other types of ships. For this, however, bunker stations are required in the ports where LNG is available. In 2015 there were two container ships whose machines were operated exclusively with LNG. In June 2015, Ostfriesland , which had been converted to LNG propulsion, also put a commercially used ferry into service. In December 2015, the Helgoland completed its maiden voyage as the first passenger ship built in Germany with LNG propulsion. Since May 2016, the AIDAprima has been supplied with liquefied natural gas while it is berthed in the ports of Le Havre , Hamburg , Southampton and Zeebrugge . The AIDAnova , which went into service in December 2018, is the first cruise ship that can be operated with liquid gas. After their completion, probably in 2019, the container ships of the CMA CGM 22,000 TEU type will also be powered by LNG, which means that the fuel will be among the largest container ships in the world in view of the sulfur limits in marine fuels that are coming up in 2020. In June 2019, according to the SEA LNG report, there were a total of 163 ships with LNG propulsion, 155 were on order. In February 2020, 175 ships with LNG propulsion options were in service and 203 had been ordered. For comparison: at the same time there were 192 ships with electric propulsion (battery and hybrid), another 196 under construction or planned.

Heavy traffic on the road

LNG is also playing an increasingly important role in heavy goods traffic . The European pioneer in this segment is Iveco , which plans to have 1,800 such trucks in service on European roads by the end of 2018, and around 800 by the end of 2017. Scania and Volvo are currently planning to enter the new market, and they already have LNG engines presented. One of the biggest problems that LNG encounters as a truck fuel, however, is the lack of a nationwide infrastructure for refueling; in 2016 there were only two LNG filling stations in Germany . The EU and the EFTA states together came to a total of 101 such filling stations. Another, which opened in Austria at the end of 2017, was about to close in May 2018 because there was a lack of government support. This shows once again that the basic political prerequisites for the smooth growth of LNG as a fuel for trucks have not yet been created in some countries. In the example of Austria, the problems are specifically, on the one hand, the burden of fuel with the mineral oil tax , instead of the significantly more favorable application of the energy tax , such as with biomethane and compressed natural gas (CNG), which is used to refuel natural gas cars , the case is. In addition, there is a lack of subsidies that could to some extent offset the higher acquisition costs of a truck powered by LNG due to the currently lower number of units. As a result, this business is currently uneconomical in a country like Austria - both for freight forwarders and for petrol station operators. The cost of setting up an LNG filling station and making it operational is around EUR 1½ million.

Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG)

In contrast to the practiced procedure of piping natural gas produced at sea to a nearby coast and converting it into liquefied natural gas there, the FLNG method aims to liquefy the natural gas at sea - near the production point -, to store it and transfer it to transport ships. This is to be done on large ships that are virtually stationary near the production sites, similar to the FPSO method practiced in oil production . In this way, in particular, natural gas reservoirs remote from the coast can be developed, the exploitation of which has hitherto been uneconomical due to the high costs of laying and operating a pipeline.

One of the FLNG projects is Prelude FLNG from Royal Dutch Shell (majority interest) and INPEX Corporation, which is due to start drilling in 2018 in the Browse Basin west of Australia . For cost reasons, the global natural gas industry is currently not in the process of implementing further FLNG plans.


There is a risk of the gas igniting during liquefaction or gasification in the LNG terminal and if the cryogenic liquid escapes from its transport or storage container.

Skin contact leads to frostbite, unprotected steel can suffer brittle fractures . Wherever vaporized methane gas displaces the oxygen, there is a risk of suffocation.

When it escapes into water , the cold liquid evaporates quickly due to the high thermal conductivity of the water. According to a safety and risk study that was carried out in April 2015 as part of the LNG master plan for the Rhine-Main-Danube, this should be taken into account especially when it is used as a fuel for shipping. Co-author Brian Mo-Ajok from the Rotterdam Fire Department illustrated the special dangers for the area around inland waterways at a conference in Duisburg on February 22, 2017.

CO 2 balance

The use of LNG as a fuel is also viewed critically from an environmental point of view. When used as a drive in internal combustion engines without an exhaust gas treatment catalytic converter , the methane present in LNG cannot be completely burned in certain operating states and is released into the atmosphere through the exhaust . Although these are relatively small amounts (1 to 2 percent), the greenhouse gas effect (warming of the atmosphere) is around 25 times higher than that of carbon dioxide , and the use of LNG is more harmful to the climate than the emissions from the combustion of the fuel alone would.

Compared to the transport of natural gas in pipelines, LNG has a less favorable greenhouse gas balance for short bridging distances. It is due to the additional processing required, the comparatively higher evaporation loss during transport and the higher energy consumption during production, liquefaction, refueling, transport and storage. The shorter the transport route, the higher the pressure in the pipeline and the fewer compressor stations there are on the route, the better the CO 2 balance of pipelines. According to the authors of the study, the use of LNG will be worthwhile in 2016 from a distance of 6000 kilometers.

See also


  • The egg is laid The use of LNG as a marine fuel is still curbed by a hen-and-egg problem. But more and more LNG projects of ship owners, port and terminal operators point to a change . In: Hansa , issue 8/2015, Schiffahrts-Verlag Hansa, Hamburg 2015, ISSN  0017-7504 , p. 48/49
  • Klaus-Rüdiger Richter: LNG - “hip” or “hype”? Cryogenic liquefied natural gas is heating up the debate about the marine fuel of the future. In: Waterkant , 2-16 of June 2016, issue 122, pp. 25-28, edited by Förderkreis Waterkant eV, Emsdetten, ISSN  1611-1583
  • LNG Report, Water Industry Street 2017/2018 . DVV Media Group , Hamburg 2017, ISBN 978-3-87154-612-9

Web links

Commons : Liquefied Natural Gas  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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