The transportation of natural gas is accomplished through various methods. The main modes of transportation are via water (on a ship), by truck, and through the use of piping. Let’s take a closer look at how the world moves natural gas.
Pipelines and Piping Transport Natural Gas on Land
Transporting natural gas over land, rivers, streams, and throughout the world, pipelines consist of three major types:
- Distribution system
- Interstate pipeline system
- Gathering system
For the transport of petroleum products, crude oil, and natural gas, there are over 500,000 miles of pipeline infrastructure. Although pipeline is the most common transportation and delivery method for natural gas, it can be transported via ships and over land courtesy of appropriately equipped and manufactured trucks and tanks.
Storing Natural Gas
Before transporting natural gas, large underground storage reservoirs are where natural gas is stored. Underground storage consists of three types:
- Salt caverns
- Depleted gas reservoirs
Unbeknownst to some, taking up far less space than gaseous natural gas, natural gas can be shipped and stored in liquid form, thanks to LNG (the process of turning natural gas into liquid). This should not be confused with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) which is a side product of oil refining or processing natural gas. LPG contains iso-butane, butane, propane, or a mixture thereof.
LNG is not stored under pressure, whereas LPG is stored under high pressure.
Transporting Natural Gas by Truck
Though transportation by pipeline is preferred, particularly if natural gas has to travel a long distance and in large capacities, it can be transported over-the-road. As long as the distances for transportation are short and the roads are good, natural gas can be transported by the use of a tanker truck in its liquefied form. In past years, natural gas transportation by way of truck (and rail) has increased to relieve pressure on the pipeline infrastructure.
Transporting Natural Gas Via Water
Freight ships used for the transportation of LNG (liquefied natural gas) are referred to as tank ships. Autorefrigeration is the method used to keep natural gas in its liquid form. This process keeps LNG at its boiling point.
When LNG needs to be turned back to its gaseous state, the process of converting is referred to as regasification. In this process, heat exchangers are used. Part of the regasification process includes pressurizing the natural gas to its proper level (less than 100 bars but greater than 70 bars). Involved in the regasification and transfer process are high pressure pumps and the use of seawater.
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