What are the technical challenges for small-mid scale LNG developments?

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Derek Thomas, Head - Advanced Research Unit, AG&P
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With the APAC LNG Forum coming up,  we spoke to Derek Thomas, Director - Advance Unit at AG&P, to find out the key challenges for small-mid scale LNG projects and the technologies that will lead the future of the industry in Asia.

Gastech News: What are the key technical challenges for smaller LNG developments?

Derek Thomas: Smaller LNG developments will have to find pathways to delivering a “product solution” which is cost effective in terms of both capital expenditure and operations, as well as being deliverable within a shorter time frame. Achieving these aims, together with a reliable “predictability” will require increasing degrees of standardisation, supporting a “design one build many” philosophy, while retaining flexibility to allow for variations in specific project requirements.

This balance between standardisation and flexibility will require careful up front design with “high value density” modularisation which creates a building block approach where specific functional modules can be added or deleted as required. This methodology has been hugely successful in allowing the amazing advances in electronics as we moved from discrete component designs to those based on modular chips.

In order to maximise potential benefits, this advanced Engineering must combine with Procurement, Fabrication and Construction to provide an "Integrated EPFC solution". While using fundamentally the same technology, this focus on delivering a “productised” industrial plant is far removed from the current "cost plus” EPC models in which we have seen so many price and timeline blowouts.

Gastech News: What technologies will lead the future of small-mid scale activities in Asia?

Derek Thomas: Much of the required technology is already in place within the LNG industry but the big move will be as we reduce costs by standardising modules and then find innovative ways to mix and match these in a way that is appropriate to particular business cases. This ability to scale projects based on regional requirements and to achieve rapid and cost effective production is more key to the future than any particular technology.

1-Floating systems such as both FLNG and FSRU represent a good example of the application of existing technologies in a new and innovative format. They inherently require a very high density of modularisation and represent our best example of a factory-built-factory. Increasing the ability to produce these units in a cost effective and timely manner will open up new opportunities.

2-Storage systems in particular represent a major component of both cost and build time for any LNG projects and are under pressures to reduce both. A major trend is towards a larger degree of pre-fabrication and modularisation in tankage, which includes the use of the same membrane tank systems which have long been dominant in LNG carriers. As small scale systems spread into the marketplace there will be an increasing demand for a flexible and cost effective solution that can be adapted to a range of capacities and membrane systems that are rapidly evolving to provide this in both marine and land based applications.

Do you agree with Derek? What technologies will play a key role in the future of the industry? Leave your comment below.

Derek Thomas will be speaking during the session "Supply – Challenges and Opportunities of Unlocking and Materializing Stranded Gas Markets". To find out more click here to view APAC LNG's latest conference programme.

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