Gas is enjoying soaring growth. Plentiful and comparatively low carbon, it is expected to make up an increasingly large share of the global energy mix in 2050. As a result, its transportation is scaling up too. Never have so many LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers crisscrossed the planet's seas. But, shipping still accounts for a big chunk of the final cost of a cubic meter of gas — too big, in fact. Both to whittle that down and for environmental reasons, Total has designed and begun construction of two LNG carriers offering improved energy efficiency, in large part because they will use some of the gas they carry for their own needs. Jacques Besse, vice president of LNG shipping at Total, explains the challenges and potential of these LNG carriers of the future.
There are two ways to move gas. One is by land, via gas pipelines; the other is by sea, aboard LNG carriers. Maritime shipping accounts for more than 31 percent of all the natural gas transported in the world1 and is expanding fast for two main reasons. The first is that major producing regions2 are located far from consumer markets.3 The second is that shipping is more flexible, making it easier to balance supply and demand. Geopolitical considerations and the advantage of reliably safe carriers are other key factors.
Natural gas must be liquefied before it can be shipped: In this way, 600 cubic meters of natural gas can be reduced to 1 cubic meter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). It's a four-step process, from purification, which removes carbon dioxide and sulfur compounds, to liquefaction, which cools the gas to -161 degrees Celsius at atmospheric pressure. The LNG is then ready to be loaded onto LNG carriers.