United States Exporting Liquid Natural Gas

What is Liquid Natural Gas?

Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) is natural gas that is cooled down to its liquid state for transportation purposes. By cooling the natural gas to a liquid, the volume reduces to 1/600th compared to its gas state. Since the natural gas is cooled and not compressed under pressure, the volatility drastically decreases which increases the safety of transportation. Natural gas is a relatively clean fossil fuel used mainly for heating, cooking, and electricity. The current trend towards cleaner energy is phasing out coal and turning more towards natural gas.

Transporting LNG

On land, natural gas is transported in its gas state through pipelines. That is the quickest, safest, and most efficient way for transportation on land. When it comes to overseas transportation, LNG is the most efficient state for transportation. Natural gas is cooled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit and stored in huge tanks on ships. When it arrives to the destination port, the LNG is drained from the tankers then heated to a gas for piping across the country.

The average size LNG tanker holds about 4.5 million cubic feet of liquid natural gas. Since these tankers carry large amounts of LNG that can be very harmful to the environment if an accident were to occur, numerous safety measures are taken for secure transportation. The typical tanker has a double hull with six feet of space between the two hulls. This provides redundancy in containment of LNG as well as protection from any penetrations in the hull that would risk leaking LNG. These tankers also have advanced leak detection systems, emergency shut-down systems, advanced radar, and advanced GPS positioning systems.

U.S. Exporting LNG

The United States is one of the largest consumers of natural gas in the world. In the mid 2000’s, many industry experts believed the U.S. was headed towards a natural gas shortage. Because the United States began moving away from coal and towards natural gas, the demand for natural gas drastically increased with supply not able to keep up. Many LNG import terminals began popping up across the country to boost the natural gas supply domestically.

In 2014, the U.S. shale boom began. This began to provide a large amount of natural gas as a byproduct of recovering oil. The uptick in cheap, domestic natural gas started to overtake the LNG import market. This was the beginning of the U.S. transitioning from being one of the largest importer of LNG to a major exporter. The U.S. went from not exporting LNG at all in 2015 to exporting 0.5 billion cubic feet in 2016 and 1.94 billion cubic feet in 2017.

The largest LNG terminal in the United States is Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal located in Sulphur, LA. This terminal was built in 2008 as an import terminal and later became an export terminal when it exported the U.S.’s first LNG export in 2016. Currently the Sabine Pass Terminal is the only LNG export terminal in the U.S. Because of the excess domestic natural gas, many export terminal are under construction with many more proposed terminals for selling LNG abroad.


Shane Naccari

Global Business Projects – Summer 2018