What is Liquefied Natural Gas? The Many Uses of LNG

Renewable Energy /
What is Liquefied Natural Gas? The Many Uses of LNG

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has emerged as a game-changer in the energy industry, revolutionizing how we transport, store, and utilize natural gas.

This extraordinary resource offers countless benefits and applications, from cleaner power generation to efficient transportation and industrial processes. Let’s explore the fascinating world of LNG, discover its diverse uses, and see how it's transforming how we think about energy.

What is Liquified Natural Gas?

Known as LNG, liquefied natural gas transforms from a gas into a liquid after super-cooling to -260° F (-162° C). The liquefaction process removes most extraneous compounds, reducing natural gas to 1/600th of its original volume.

This makes it possible to safely and efficiently carry natural gas across long distances and even use it as a transportation fuel.

Liquefied natural gas can be moved from production to market regions in areas where natural gas pipelines do not exist or cannot be constructed. LNG vessels are specially designed with multiple safety features, such as leak detection technology and emergency shutdown systems.

Once LNG reaches its destination, it is regasified and dispersed through natural gas pipelines for use in homes, businesses, industrial facilities, and much more.

Benefits of Liquefied Gases

Liquefying natural gases offers advantages over maintaining their raw or compressed form.

  • Liquefaction significantly reduces gas volume, allowing for more efficient storage and transportation. LNG occupies only 1/600th of its original volume, making it easier to handle and economically feasible to transport over long distances.
  • The liquefaction process removes impurities and extraneous compounds from natural gas, producing a cleaner and more concentrated energy source. This purity enhances the combustion efficiency of LNG, reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter when compared to raw or compressed gas.

Types of Natural Gases Liquefied

LNG primarily consists of methane (CH4), the most abundant natural gas component. However, other natural gases, such as ethane (C2H6), propane (C3H8), butane (C4H10), and pentane (C5H12), can also be liquefied. These gases are typically separated during the liquefaction process to obtain pure LNG. Each gas has specific applications and uses, making LNG a versatile energy source.

Processing, Storage, and Transportation

Once liquefied, LNG is stored in specially designed cryogenic tanks and terminals, maintaining the low temperatures required to keep the gas in liquid form. These storage facilities employ advanced insulation techniques to minimize heat transfer and prevent vaporization.

LNG transportation is predominantly done via specially constructed LNG carriers equipped with insulation and containment systems that maintain the required temperatures and ensure safety. These vessels are designed to handle the unique properties of LNG, including its extremely low temperature and potential for expansion.

Comparison to Raw and Compressed Gas

Raw natural gas, as extracted from underground reservoirs, contains impurities such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, sulfur compounds, and trace amounts of other hydrocarbons. Before liquefaction, these impurities are removed through various purification methods, resulting in a cleaner and more valuable product.

However, compressed natural gas (CNG) is achieved by compressing raw natural gas to pressures of up to 3,600 pounds per square inch (psi). While CNG offers advantages in terms of storage and transportation compared to raw gas, it still occupies a larger volume than LNG. The liquefaction process allows for a more significant reduction in volume, making LNG a more space-efficient option.

What is LNG Used For?

Here are some of the most common uses of LNG today.


LNG is used for energy

LNG plays a significant role in the energy sector, providing approximately one-third of the primary energy consumption in the United States. As the world's largest natural gas producer, the U.S. has been delivering natural gas to 40 countries on five continents.

LNG is a popular fuel choice for power generation because it’s a clean-burning fuel that produces fewer carbon emissions than other fossil fuels (like gasoline). Many power plants also use LNG as a backup fuel,  storing it on-site in cryogenic tanks.

If demand peaks or supply drops, utility companies can revert LNG to its gaseous form and burn it to generate electricity.

Natural gas’s higher energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact contribute to its reputation as an “energy of the future.” Experts predict natural gas will account for 25 percent of the world’s energy portfolio by 2035.


LNG is used for transportation

While LNG can be used as vehicle fuel in its liquid state, transporting and storing it at the right temperature can be tricky. As a result, using LNG as a transportation fuel is primarily limited to heavy-duty trucks, buses, and ships that can accommodate its unique cooling requirements.

In addition, because trucks fueled by LNG are half as noisy as their diesel-fueled counterparts, they are often used in urban areas where noise pollution laws prohibit excessive truck traffic.

Converting LNG back into its gaseous state at room temperature is a simple process, allowing it to be used like natural gas for vehicles like cars, taxis, and public transit buses.

Compared to diesel fuel, natural gas reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent and carbon monoxide emissions by a whopping 97 percent, helping businesses and industries comply with strict environmental standards.

Residential and Commercial Heating

LNG is used for Residential and Commercial Heating

Natural gas is widely used for heating and cooking in residential and commercial buildings throughout the United States. Nearly 70 million U.S. homes are heated with natural gas, making it the most popular fuel for home heating.

However, thanks to significant strides in natural gas fuel’s energy efficiency, overall consumption has remained the same over the past several decades, while the number of homes heated with natural gas has risen.

Additionally, over 5 million commercial customers, including hospitals, schools, restaurants, and offices, utilize natural gas for space and water heating.

Because the commercial sector has grown over the years, the average utility bill that commercial customers pay for natural gas has declined significantly since 1975, reaching a new low of $405 in 2015.

Raw Materials

LNG is used for Raw Materials

The industrial sector accounts for about one-third of natural gas consumption in the United States. Many manufacturers rely on natural gas to create critical products such as paper, glass, plastics, steel, iron, and bricks.

LNG's unique properties make it an excellent choice for various metal heating processes, including melting, reheating, and thermal treatments. Additionally, natural gas is crucial in producing fertilizers, plastics, medicine, synthetic fiber clothing, paints, cosmetics, and other petroleum-based products. The chemical and textile industries also utilize natural gas for steam production.

The Future of LNG

The LNG industry is poised for significant growth and innovation. The demand for natural gas and LNG is expected to continue increasing due to its cleaner burning characteristics and versatility across multiple sectors.

In recent years, there has been a surge in LNG infrastructure development, including production, storage, and regasification facilities. This expansion aims to meet the growing demand for LNG globally and enable new markets to access this abundant and clean energy source.

The industry's future also includes advancements in LNG technology, such as floating LNG (FLNG) facilities and small-scale LNG solutions. These innovations enable more flexible and cost-effective LNG production and distribution options, particularly in remote or challenging locations.

Choose FASTECH For Your Alternative Energy Needs

LNG is recognized for its wide-ranging applications, as evidenced in over 100 LNG production, transport, and storage facilities across the United States. If your organization has been considering switching to alternative fuel, LNG might be the ideal solution.

For over two decades, global industrial energy leaders have trusted FASTECH to provide alternative energy solutions and clean fuel consulting services. Our team specializes in end-to-end solutions, from planning and construction to ongoing maintenance and compliance for hydrogen, CNG, LNG, and propane.

To learn more about embracing alternative energy and reaping its benefits, contact FASTECH today.

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