14 Oct 2015 Liquefied Natural Gas and Domestic Supply
What is liquefied natural gas (LNG)?
In the United States we use natural gas pipelines and other modes of transportation to distribute fuel to customers across the nation. However, in order to move this fuel efficiently across oceans to export to other countries, natural gas must be converted into LNG through a process called liquefaction.
During the liquefaction process natural gas is cooled to a temperature of approximately minus (-) 260 degrees Fahrenheit. This cooling process condenses the natural gas into a liquid form that takes up about 1/600th of the volume of natural gas in its gaseous state. Source: Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Once LNG reaches its destination–via double-hulled ships specifically designed to handle the low temperature of LNG–it is returned to a gaseous state at regasification facilities. At that point, the natural gas is distributed to homes, businesses and industries.
Managing Domestic Supply of Natural Gas
The United States currently has 11 facilities capable of receiving LNG, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and experts believe that importing more natural gas will help to keep prices lower during high peak periods and support economic growth. The U.S. currently imports small amounts of LNG, far less than it did prior to the current increases in shale gas production.
On the other hand, exports are predicting to rev up this year, as a terminal near the Louisiana coast begins chilling natural gas to be shipped and sold to customers in Europe and Asia, according to a recent article in Bloomberg Business. It will be the first facility to export natural gas from the contiguous United States.
This sounds confusing, at first glance. How would increasing both the importing and exporting of natural gas be beneficial? It’s all about smoothing out the highs and lows in supply and demand. When demand is low and supply is high, production has to be reduced, diminishing jobs and economic stimulus. When demand is high and supply is low, prices spike up and hurt the individual consumers. Having a strong import and export structure in place helps balance out the differences in supply and demand caused by seasonal changes and bottlenecks in the pipeline system, hence supporting a smoother economic growth.
The heart of having a balanced supply and demand of liquefied natural gas is being able to adequately move the LNG quickly and economically through a vast pipeline network. Various entities ensure the appropriate action is taken to monitor the effects that pipelines have on the ecosystem. Even after pipelines are approved, constant monitoring is done by government agencies to verify the site is meeting pertinent regulations. Natural gas pipelines are needed to distribute natural gas safely, and pipeline companies like Snelson and Energy Services South are working hard to exceed federal safety standards.