LNG is a clear, colorless, and non-toxic liquid that forms when natural gas is cooled to -162ºC (-260ºF). The cooling process shrinks the volume of the gas 600 times, making it easier and safer to store and ship. In its liquid state, LNG will not ignite.
When LNG reaches its destination, it is turned back into a gas at regasification plants. It is then piped to homes, businesses, and industries where it is burnt for heat or to generate electricity. LNG is now also emerging as a cost-competitive and cleaner transport fuel, especially for shipping and heavy-duty road transport.
Natural gas is extracted from fields located predominantly in countries such as Algeria, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Nigeria and the USA. The distance between these countries and their markets means that it is not always possible to transport the natural gas produced via gas pipelines; in this case, the easiest and most economical alternative is to ship it by sea in LNG tankers.
To enable maritime transport, the natural gas is cooled down by means of a refrigerated cycle (compression, condensation, expansion, evaporation) that transforms the gas into a liquid form at -160°C: this is known as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). LNG, which is largely composed of methane (85 to 99%), is odorless, colorless, non-toxic, and non-corrosive.
Once it has been liquefied, very large quantities of Liquefied Natural Gas can be stored and transported in LNG tanker ships. The cargo is transported in thermally insulated tanks, specially designed to maintain the natural gas in liquid form at -160°C.