Celebrating half a century of LNG innovation

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Later this year the LNG industry will celebrate 50 years of commercial operations. Over that half century the industry has come a long way – from the first few decades of being a niche fuel to becoming very much part of the mainstream natural gas industry today. Asian companies have played major roles – as suppliers, as buyers, and, of course, as engineering companies responsible for constructing what are technologically highly complex facilities. One of the leaders in the latter category is Japan’s JGC Corporation.

At the 3rd Annual Gas Asia Summit in Singapore in October, the company’s Project Manager for LNG Projects, Naoyuki Takezawa, will be one of the speakers in a session entitled “Future New Supply: Africa and Russia”. Gastech News asked him about how LNG technology has been evolving and the contribution his company has been making to these advances.

While LNG technology has been advancing throughout the 50 years that the industry has been operating, the pace of innovation has been accelerating over the past decade. As Naoyuki Takezawa says when asked for his views on today’s technological advancements:

“Technologies for LNG project have been developed in recent years, in terms of capacity, process schemes for various feed gas properties, drivers for refrigerant compressors, cooling media, heating media, efficiency, environmental considerations and safety/operability aspects.”

Especially notable have been the advances in train size. From the 0.5 mtpa facilities of the early years, the industry has moved towards trains an order of magnitude larger. Trains with capacities of 5 mtpa are now commonplace and in Qatar we see six trains with capacities of 7.8 mtpa.

As the industry has grown, more and more countries have joined the club of LNG suppliers. “LNG plants were previously located in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia Oceania,” says Takezawa. “However, LNG plants are planned in new frontiers, such as East Africa, the Arctic area, North America and Russia.”

Yet another development has been the utilisation of new gas sources, notably in Australia and North America: “Recent feed gas source include shale gas and coal-bed methane (CBM) as well as conventional natural gas sources,” says Takezawa. “Technologies to remove impurities and to handle lean gas have also been developed.”

When asked how has JGC has contributed to technological improvements in LNG Projects, Takezawa can reel off a long list:

  •  In the 1970s, JGC built the Brunei LNG Plant – the first application of the APCI C3 MR process for large base-load plant.
  •  In the 1980s, JGC adopted the world’s first all-air-cooling, gas turbine-driven compressor LNG plant for the Woodside-operated North West Shelf LNG project in Australia.
  • In the 1990s, JGC adopted the world’s first application of industrial gas turbines (GE Frame 6 and 7) for refrigerant compressor drivers, and a liquid expander for Malaysia’s second LNG project, MLNG Dual.
  • In 1996, JGC developed the mercaptan removal process for high sulphur-content feed gas for the Ras Laffan LNG project in Qatar.
  • In  the 2000s, to mitigate the power in-balance for the refrigerant compressor, a helper motor and starter motor/generator for the gas turbine driver were adopted for Malaysia’s third LNG project, MLNG Tiga.
  •  Also in the 2000s, JGC developed the e-LNG concept using large-capacity variable-speed motor-driven refrigerant compressor, which it plans to apply to the Masela floating LNG (FLNG) project in Indonesia.
  • Again in the 2000s, JGC developed the mid/small-size LNG concept for the monetisation of stranded gas fields.
  • Yet another innovation during the 2000s was an innovative plant layout to enable smaller plot size and lower elevation – adopted for LNG plants in Indonesia, Australia and Canada.
  •  In the 2010s, JGC developed a mitigation program of plant capacity reduction by hot air recirculation – adopted for recent LNG projects in Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, the USA and Mozambique.

 So what about Mozambique? “In recent years,” says Takezawa, “large gas fields offshore of Mozambique were discovered and planning of export LNG was developed. The first LNG project led by a US oil company and partners from Japan, Mozambique, India and Thailand has completed FEED and EPC tendering.

“A second LNG project led by Italian oil major and partners from China, Mozambique, Korea, and Portugal has two options: one for an onshore LNG plant and the other for an FLNG plant; for the onshore LNG plant project, FEED has been completed and EPC tendering has commenced.”

He adds that given the countries of the partners for both the first and the second projects, “LNG exports to Asia should be well considered”.

Looking ahead, Takezawa sees several challenges:

  • Deep sea – “Many of the gas fields for recent LNG projects are located in deep sea, that is, more than 500 metres deep.” This presents a range of challenges regarding the technology for exploration, development, installation of production facilities, and umbilical flow/trunk line to shore.
  • Arctic climatic conditions – “Climatic condition for the plant sites for recent LNG projects in Russia, Alaska and Canada are harsh in winter,” he says. ”To mitigate work conditions and schedule, modularisation is being considered.”
  • Environmental conditions – “Environmental requirements for plant site and the surrounding area are more severe, when it comes to NOx, SOx and CO2 emission, noise, waste water discharge, solid waste, and so on, especially for the US, Canada and Australia, where environmental protection is mandatory.”

Read the full interview with Naoyuki Takezawa, on our Gas Asia Summit website

 Related conference:

Gas Asia Summit, 28 – 30 October 2014, Singapore: Future New Supply: Russia & East Africa