Liquefied Natural gas (LNG)
What is it?
Liquefied Natural gas is the compressed state of natural gas (primarily methane gas). The first LNG shipment was made from Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA to Canvey Island in the United Kingdom in 1958, marking a very significant development for the global natural gas industry.
Previously natural gas transportation was restricted by the availability of pipelines, typically land-locked and preventing the growth of international trade in natural gas. The liquefaction of natural gas enabled vast quantities to be traded economically across oceans, since LNG takes up only 1/600th of the volume of its gaseous equivalent.
How is it used?
LNG in its compressed form can be used for a variety of functions, including fuelling specially designed internal combustion engines for vehicles. LNG is transported to its point of usage or sale in a pressurised vessel and then decompressed back to a gaseous form for use.
Transport vessels for LNG can be enormous ships like “Mozah”, the biggest LNG transport ship in the world and capable of transporting 266,000 cubic metres of LNG in one load. LNG can also be transported in small bottles storing only a few cubic metres, like those you might have connected to your barbecue at home.
This makes LNG particularly useful for heating homes and hot water systems in remote communities, which may not have access to the commercial natural gas plumbing often available to households in major cities. It is also extremely useful for vehicle-bound travellers, who can carry enough LNG to provide cooking fuel for many months in one relatively small, easy to transport and safe to store container.
Who uses it?
LNG is used commonly across the globe, though the biggest import markets as of 2010 are Japan, Korea and Spain. Japan consumes in excess of 30% of all global imports, doubling the next highest importer Korea, who account for 14.8% of global imports. The third highest LNG importer is Spain, consuming 9.5% of global imports.
It is important to note these figures do not necessarily reflect LNG consumption within each country. Exporting countries are also likely to have significant domestic consumption.
Where does it come from?
LNG comes from the liquefaction of natural gas and can be produced anywhere that natural gas is found, provided the infrastructure is available. Currently, Qatar is by far the worlds’ leading exporter of LNG, accounting for more than 25% of global LNG exports in 2010. Other major LNG exporting countries include Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Algeria, Russia and Oman.
It is important to note these statistics do not necessarily reflect the entire global production of LNG, since some LNG producing nations (like the USA) may actually consume more than they produce making them net-importers of LNG.
LNG is lighter than air.
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