Powering the energy future through LNG

Erik Langeteig's picture
Erik Langeteig, Director of Project Solutions, Chart Industries
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Where no gas pipeline or grid infrastructure exists, the LNG Virtual Pipeline enables natural gas to be used as a primary fuel for power generation. In addition, an LNG Virtual Pipeline can provide a secondary back-up/emergency fuel where natural gas pipeline capacity is constrained.

What is the LNG Virtual Pipeline?

A Virtual Pipeline is a substitute to a physical pipeline whereby the commodity that would typically be conveyed through a physical pipeline is instead transported to the point of use by sea, road, rail or a combination of one or more of the aforementioned.

In the case of natural gas, the product is first liquefied to reduce its overall volume to 1/600th of its gaseous volume and loaded into cryogenic containers for transportation from its source, which can be an import terminal, distribution hub or liquefaction plant, to the point of use.

At the point of use, a regasification station, which can also be referred to as an LNG Satellite Station, is the complete system that incorporates LNG storage, vaporisation, pressure regulation and control systems to deliver natural gas exactly as if it were from a physical pipeline.

For users who aren’t connected to a physical pipeline and looking to switch to natural gas from diesel, oils, LPG and propane, the Virtual Pipeline model simply mimics their current supply solution; liquid fuel is delivered to their site where it is off-loaded and stored for immediate use.

For users who are connected to a grid but are looking to supplement insufficient or unreliable pipeline capacity to meet additional load and seasonal variations or provide emergency fuel back-up during outages, the Virtual Pipeline solution is far more efficient than diesel or LPG back-up as the enterprise is simply using stored natural gas to augment pipeline natural gas and can utilise the same delivery system.


1. Remote locations and islands - Access to reliable energy means empowerment and increased living standards. With 80% of the world’s population that still have little or no access to electricity living in remote areas, the potential for LNG is huge. Society is committed to a low carbon energy future anyway and regions that rely on imported energy favour LNG anyway because of its relative price stability.

Chart has already made significant contributions to projects that use LNG to fuel mega-watt power stations in the Caribbean and on Madeira island. Using cryogenic ISO containers to transport LNG means it can be delivered from source to site efficiently and safely via different modes, for instance, road and sea. A full for empty swap system provides greater cost efficiencies.

2. Diesel, propane, LPG and oil displacement - Typically aimed at medium to large scale industrial enterprises that aren’t connected to the grid and are currently using one of the aforementioned for primary power. Generally, a business switching to LNG will make financial savings as well as significantly reducing their environmental footprint.

Chart’s recommendation for this particular application is generically referred to as a ‘Compact’ LNG Satellite Station because it’s designed and built as a full plug and play solution that can be installed, commissioned and be fully operational inside a couple of days with minimal preparatory civil work required. Compact stations are modular, hence capacity can be added in the future according to increased demand, and relocatable, which means they can also be used as a temporary solution while a larger capacity installation is being constructed.

3. Peak Shaving and Curtailment – In 2014 the Northeast US experienced an extended period of severely cold weather that resulted in pipeline natural gas supply to power stations being curtailed. This year a similar weather front proved to be equally disruptive and spot natural gas prices peaked as high as $175 per MMBTU versus a prevailing Henry Hub price of around $3 MMBTU. In order to avoid penalties for disrupting supply and take advantage of financial inducements for maintaining it, natural gas-fired power stations are investing in backup systems and LNG is the obvious choice. As described earlier, the power stations are essentially still using natural gas and hence benefit from all the associated advantages including environmental compliance and reduced costs through a combination of factors. As also demonstrated, the complete Virtual Pipeline solution is already well proven.

4. Distributed Energy – A combination of financial, economic and political considerations is driving the power generation industry towards small-scale gas-fired power stations that are quicker to install, less capital intensive and offer a faster return on investment, particularly in North America. By utilising LNG as a back-up to natural gas supply the plants are able to respond quickly to meet peak demand or when increased demand curtails pipeline supply. In addition, the plants can also use the LNG to take advantage of favourable prices as the grid demand swings.

For a nameplate capacity of around 50MW this type of project would typically require an LNG satellite plant with 100,000 gallons of LNG storage (a single Chart shop built cryogenic tank) that feeds multiple reciprocating engine generator sets with rapid start up. 

5. Temporary Power Solutions – Applications for temporary power include oil and gas, utility companies, major events (concerts, sporting), construction, mining and disaster relief. It’s a burgeoning market and currently dominated by diesel generators but the solution to utilize cleaner burning natural gas through LNG is already well proven.

With society committed to transitioning to a low carbon energy future and natural gas supply forecast to be stable and competitively priced for a foreseeable period, there are significant opportunities to extend the use of natural gas, through LNG, to communities and regions where there is no pipeline infrastructure and to augment pipeline supply for peak demand. Furthermore, the Virtual Pipeline, which takes LNG from its source all the way through to its point of end-use is already a proven, well-established, viable and cost-effective solution for the complete range of power generation opportunities, from temporary through to base-load.


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To learn more visit www.ChartLNG.com or contact us at [email protected]

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