Countries including Qatar, Malaysia and the US are beginning to grasp the opportunity that exists, using gas from shale rock formations, to capitalise on their natural resources. This has led to economic opportunity through the export of LNG. As I have written previously, while the first wave of US LNG exports is still a few years away, it could reach 9 billion cubic feet a day by 2020, contributing to a rise of between eight to 25 per cent of the US’ global market share by 2035.
LNG projects, however, face a number of major challenges; they require high infrastructure costs, they are technologically complex, and the environmental impact of extraction and processing are highly regulated. Electrification holds the key to turning LNG into a more attractive energy source by making it cleaner and more efficient. It not only helps LNG production plants to meet the stringent environmental and carbon emission standards expected, but to also reduce the impact of their presence on the communities around them.
“eLNG” electrified LNG - is the liquefied natural gas supply chain enabled through full electric motor driven compression technology in the processing, transport and distribution network for LNG. This is an alternative process to traditional mechanically driven devices, powered by gas itself or other fossil fuels.
LNG plants comprise enormous refrigeration units that work in much the same fashion as a home chiller, but at industrial scales. Plants run massive compressors which help to cool incoming natural gas to -162 degrees Celsius. The Electric drives (E-Drives) used in eLNG facilities are more efficient than their mechanical counterparts and, because they use electricity, can make use of lower carbon energy sources such as wind and hydro, resulting in a smaller environmental impact.
The Freeport LNG facility is the largest eLNG facility in the United States, under the regulatory authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy for environmental and safety review. The use of eLNG here is helping Freeport meet the environmental requirements established by these agencies and significantly reduce the carbon impact on the surrounding area.
GE has recently invested heavily in its capabilities for delivering high powered and ever more complex mechanical-electrical systems, which are now being delivered in the eLNG sector. These systems make it possible for LNG projects using existing electric power, or for those building their own combined cycle power plants to power electric motor-driven refrigeration systems, which reduces the carbon impact of the production facilities and helps meet government regulatory requirements. Electrification has the potential to make LNG even more attractive as an alternative energy source.