How Can We Transport Natural Gas?

Natural gas in reservoir can not be produced if there is no infrastructure to transport it to the place where natural gas is required.


The major transportation of natural gas is carried through pipelines. Throughout the world, major efforts are under way to increase the gathering, transmission, and distribution capacity in order to promote and support projected growth of natural gas demand.  If political stability can be guaranteed, pipelines may be able to provide a long-term solution for transportation. However, the cost of building pipeline remains unclear. If technical and economic hurdles can be overcome, these pipelines can become effective competitors to the future LNG projects.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

Liquefied natural gas technology has proven to be effective over the last 50 years. LNG is a major source of total natural gas demand in some countries. For example, more than 95% of Japan's natural gas demand is satisfied through LNG. The same is true for South Korea where virtually all natural gas is supplied through LNG. Other Asian countries such as Thailand and India are joining the fray and are expected to import natural gas through LNG.

The large capital costs of each link in LNG require long-term commitment by various parties such as, the gas supplier, liquefier, transportation company, and distributor. Additionally, these parties should also have sufficient financial capacity and strong project management skills.

Gas to Liquid Products

Gas to liquid (GTL) technology refers to the conversion of natural gas into synthetic hydrocarbon liquids. In the first step, natural gas is reformed and converted to hydrogen and CO. The mixture is called synthetic gas or syngas. This is the same process for converting natural gas to hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel in a fuel cell. This step is the most expensive and consumes about 50% of the total GTL costs. In the second step, in a slurry reactor the syngas is blown over a catalyst at about 232 Celsius degree and is converted to liquids. This is called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. These liquids can be converted to other desirable products, such as synthetic fuels, using the cracking process. One disadvantage of GTL is that the cost of building a GTL plant is too high. Further, the price of producing synthetic fuels will be dependent on the price of natural gas and it is possible that it could be significantly higher than the price of crude oil. Another disadvantage of current GTL technology is that the use of synthetic fuels ultimately results in more carbon emissions than the use of LNG. 

Gas Hydrates Pipeline

Exotic method which is still in the experimental stage, is to convert natural gas into hydrates and transport the gas hydrates in a slurry form. Natural gas hydrates (NGH) are formed by combining natural gas with water at the appropriate temperature and pressure. It is a cage-like crystalline structure which can store 50 cubic meters of gas at standard condition in 1 cubic meter space.

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