Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

Basic Information

With the start-up of the world’s first commercial-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Arzew in Algeria in 1964, the modern global LNG industry is approaching its 50th birthday in 2014.

LNG, or liquefied natural gas, is natural gas that is cooled to -260° Fahrenheit until it becomes a liquid and then stored at essentially atmospheric pressure. Converting natural gas to LNG, a process that reduces its volume by about 600 times – similar to reducing the volume of a beach ball to the volume of a ping-pong ball – allows it to be transported internationally via cargo ships. Once delivered to its destination in the U.S. or abroad, the LNG is warmed back into its original gaseous state so that it can be used just like existing natural gas supplies, by sending it through pipelines for distribution to homes and businesses

When returned to its gaseous state, LNG is used across the residential, commercial and industrial sectors for purposes as diverse as heating and cooling homes, cooking, generating electricity and manufacturing paper, metal, glass and other materials. LNG is also increasingly being used to fuel heavy-duty vehicles.

Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel and is being used throughout the world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Compared to coal, natural gas produces far fewer carbon dioxide emissions and sulfur emissions. LNG is simply natural gas in a liquid state. As a fuel, LNG produces relatively low emissions when burned to heat and cool homes, generate electricity, and power vehicles.

LNG is odorless, non-toxic and non-corrosive. When exposed to the environment, LNG rapidly evaporates, leaving no residue on water or soil. If spilled, LNG would not result in a slick because 100 percent of it evaporates, leaving no residue behind.

Safety/Security

The LNG industry’s highest priority has always been safety and security, which is reflected in the industry’s enviable safety record. LNG is not stored under pressure and it is not explosive. Although a large amount of energy is stored in LNG, it cannot be released rapidly enough if released into the open environment to cause the overpressures associated with an explosion. LNG vapors (methane) mixed with air are not explosive in an unconfined environment. A major incident resulting in a large release of LNG could result in a fire, but only if there is the right concentration of LNG vapor in the air (5% – 15%) and a source of ignition.