Modular Plant Design The LNG Toolbox – How Modular Plant Design Brings Tomorrow's Fuel into Reach

Author / Editor: Dominik Stephan* / Dominik Stephan

Construction Kits for LPG production — Liquefied gas could become the fuel of the future — but its handling, storage and liquefaction demands elaborate process plant. Now, gas specialist Linde introduces a modular concept for LNG liquefaction in small and medium size. Their vision: The liquefaction toolbox for plan engineers …

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The reference for Star LNG down under: a gas liquefaction plant in Kwinana, Australia
The reference for Star LNG down under: a gas liquefaction plant in Kwinana, Australia
(Pictures: Linde)

Plant engineers are caught between extremes: While mega-plants in Asia or along the US Gulf Coast can not be big enough, customers in fine and specialty chemicals, but also in oil and gas production call for fast, cheap and flexible solutions.

This puts plant construction in an uneasy situation, as western companies already have are hard time competing with low-cost players from Asia. Let’s face it: Engineering is a personnel-intensive business. From design via development down to construction, no two plants are alike. Therefore, the idea of assembling complex production lines from a set of pre-build modules has a huge appeal.

Especially in oil and gas industries, quite often the remote location of wells and sites calls for autonomous, flexible and complete turnkey solutions. From process skids via package units to modular engineering concepts like readymade 3D-CAD models, modularization can save up to 15 % of engineering costs, studies show. Already today, oil companies and natural gas producers rely on pre-assembled compressor skids or chemical injection modules. But the vision goes even further: What if a complete production plant could be put together from compact modular building blocks, just like a set of Lego bricks?

For this purpose, gas specialist Linde, a company with some experience in modular air separation units, has launched an initiative for standardized LPG-processing plants. In 2010, the company assembled a core team and spent more than 25,000 engineering hours to develop the modular LNG liquefaction. Their aim: To supply high quality plants at a low price in shorter times than individually designed LPG-units. Although the recent figures for natural gas present a mixed picture, the big plans for LNG export terminals in the US in the wake of the shale gas boom present a huge market potential.

Individual or Pre-Assembled?

But Linde has bigger plans: The company wants to tap into the merchant LNG market, where LNG is used as a transport fuel. Especially as shipping regulations are becoming increasingly stringent, the threshold for sulphur levels in fuel have been limited from 1.5 % to 0.1 % by 2015. This development makes clean LNG a valuable alternative shipping fuel, as it produces round 90 % less sulphur oxide and 80 % less nitrogen oxide during combustion, as well as significantly less CO2. Already in 2012, Linde’s Swedish subsidiary AGA Gas signed delivery agreement with Viking Line for LNG to power Viking’s new cruise ship

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