LNG 101 — what you need to know
What is it?
Liquefied natural gas is gas that has been cooled to -260°F (-162°C), which converts it to a liquid and makes it easier and cheaper to transport. When natural gas is converted to a liquid, it takes up approximately 1/600 of the space it would as a vapor, making transportation much easier.
Learn more about LNG on the Center for LNG website.
Is it safe?
LNG is very safe to transport. The industry’s safety record is exemplary, and LNG has been transported on oceans and stored in the United States for over 50 years.
LNG is an odorless, non-toxic, non-corrosive liquid. It leaves no residue after it evaporates. It will not burn until it becomes a vapor, and even then the vapor won’t burn until it mixes with air and becomes extremely diluted (5-15% LNG-to-air). Below 5% there is too little LNG in the air to burn; above 15%, there is too much. Tests done by the United States Coast Guard demonstrate that unconfined LNG vapor clouds to not detonate, they only burn.
Why is LNG so important?
The demand for liquid natural gas is on the rise. The global demand for clean natural gas is expected to grow 50% by 2035. Much of this demand will come from Japan, India and China. As demand goes up, it is critical to explore alternative sources of energy that also addresses CO2 emissions. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon available, and its transportation to other markets will allow consumers to move away from higher-emission fuels such as coal.
How is LNG transported?
Once converted to a liquid, natural gas is transported through a pipeline system to carriers, double-hulled transporter ships that take LNG across the ocean to waiting markets. Because LNG must be cooled to remain a liquid, these carriers are designed to retain the cold (not unlike an insulated cup). LNG carriers can hold up to 9.4 million cubic feet of LNG.
Energy producers have been transporting LNG this way for over 40 years. There have been more than 135,000 voyages during that time, all without major incident. Still, the industry takes safety seriously: carriers are double-hulled, and cargo tanks are separated from the hull structure.
What if there’s a release?
There has never been a significant LNG cargo release in the 45 years LNG has been transported by sea. That doesn’t mean we don’t take every precaution against the possibility.
If there were a release, vaporizing LNG is not soluble in water and any liquid released on the ocean would quickly evaporate. There is no possibility for water contamination.
LNG is non-toxic and it does not enter into any chemical reactions unless it is ignited. The likelihood of LNG igniting is extremely low, and exists only if LNG is first vaporized, then mixed with air in a gas-to-air ratio of 5 to 15%. Even if it did ignite on the water, it would quickly burn off.
What about LNG storage? Is that safe?
There are LNG facilities around the world, performing a variety of functions. Some export natural gas, others store it for use during peak demand periods, and some produce LNG for fuel or industrial use. There are more than 100 facilities operating in the United States today.
In Oregon, two LNG storage facilities (one in Portland and the other in Newport) have been operated safely for decades, helping to provide reliable natural gas service during times of peak demand.
Who regulates LNG?
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is responsible for reviewing the design and operation of LNG facilities, both on-shore and near-shore, under Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act. FERC also prepares environmental assessment and impact statements for proposed LNG terminals, and is the only agency that can authorize the construction and operation of an LNG facility connected to an interstate pipeline. FERC also approves the transportation rate the pipeline charges shippers.