Future small-scale LNG schemes and value chains

Dietrich Roeben's picture
Dietrich Roeben, General Manager Operations & Maintenance, NXTLNG
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Small-scale LNG (SSLNG) is one of the hot topics in the LNG arena, mainly due to its focus on substitution fuel for the industry, residential, and recently, transport. SSLNG value changes have shaken up the energy markets as a disruptor; first by entering previously unserved segments and then competing with existing energy value chains. LNG enters as a new fuel for remote locations and a substitution fuel for transport. Once a value chain is built up it starts to substitute other forms of energy and this is happening in China where LNG is pushing out traditional heating fuels in cities in an effort to fight pollution. What sounds like a revolutionary market change was in fact only a market extension for Chinese LNG distributors.

To achieve a successful SSLNG scheme, it is important to look at the whole value chain. SSLNG is driven by downstream demand, not by upstream gas availability as is large-scale LNG. In 2018, most technologies along the value chain are off-the-shelf. The liquefaction plant needs to be conceptualised with caution and anticipation of the targeted market developments.

In the Gastech 2018 SSLNG session, different concepts were described as well as the enablers that made SSLNG a breakthrough change in China - 

  • The most successful SSLNG schemes are built around small to midscale plants (max 0.5 mmtpa) with either one SMR train or 2-3 N2-Expander units.
  • The market demand will drive turndown and storage requirements in operating SSLNG plants, often like peak shavers with many start-up and shutdown activities.
  • The distribution of atmospheric pressurised LNG is advisable via ISO tanks or truck/trailers.
  • Opportunities in the combination of SSLNG and renewable power generation could elevate small-scale LNG plants into very competitive unit costs.
  • Distributing LNG from import terminals is a well-established technology; what has changed however is the scope of the logistics operations.
  • Terminals in China have been trucking out 250-300 LNG trucks per day. This LNG goes to industrial and residential consumers and increasingly to road transport schemes.
  • The bunkering market is growing and a breakthrough will depend on regulations, like MARPOL in the Baltic Sea and around the USA coasts.

New LNG value chains emerge every day. They make use of the increased availability of imported LNG and standardized small/midsize LNG plants providing a regional clean substitution fuel supply. Succeeding in these markets requires new business models and the flexibility to react quickly to market changes. Government support via policies and incentives will support the breakthrough of LNG as a new major source of fuel and the China success story can act as a

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