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Liquefaction

Definition

Liquefaction refers to the physical transformation of gas into liquid.

In the oil and gas industry this liquefaction of gas may be processed just by compression, just by refrigeration, or both in combination depending on the gas

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In most of the cases the gas liquefaction is performed for storage and transportation purpose.

Previous to the industrial development of gas liquefaction the natural gas markets were very local and the transportation was solely carried out through gas pipelines.

Net importers of natural gas were at the mercy of their next door neighbors who could change the price they charged for spot gas or short term contracts at any time.

When the gas pipeline happens to cross third parties countries, between the exporter and the importing country we could also see the resulting tensions on the fees to pass by.

Because of these uncertain practices in trading gas another form of transportation had to be developed to build a global gas market on the same model as oil.

Natural gas liquefaction was then conceptualized in the 1960′s and the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier was moved from Algeria to the UK.

To be liquefied the natural gas must be cooled down at very low temperature – 161° Celsius by the process known as liquefaction.

During that liquefaction the natural gas reduces its volume by 600 times which makes it much easier to store and transport as long as the temperature is maintained at that low level of -163° C, just below the boiling point.

To guaranty this low temperature during transportation, special vessels have been designed with special tanks and dedicated cooling system to maintain the natural gas in its liquid phase.

The same process is used in the storage tank farms in LNG terminals for import or export.

To produce cold in the gas liquefier, a turboexpander is used.

The gas liquefier is reliable in operation; it has a simple technological structure and a handy control system.

The gas liquefier is a cryogenic unit which uses a pressure drop in the natural gas networks (about 6 bar) to power the natural gas liquefaction process.

The gas liquefier includes a natural gas treatment and dehydration system, booster compressor, liquefaction unit, turboexpander unit, control system.

In the liquefaction process, the natural gas is liquefied in a condenser where the heat of vaporization is released, and then evaporated in the evaporator, where the heat of vaporization is absorbed.

Along the development of this liquefaction technologies, the natural gas markets has turned over the years less and less local to become regional but not yet global.

The world natural gas market is actually divided in three regions, North America mostly dominated by spot market prices, such as Henry hub, Europe which is a mix between spot prices and long term contracts mostly signed with Norway,  Russia or Algeria, and Asia where the natural gas market is driven by long term contracts indexed on the oil prices through JCC calculations.

For more information and data about oil and gas and petrochemical projects go to Project Smart Explorer

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