Cryoline: Innovation in the LNG 'Transfer Zone'

by Vincent Lagarrigue, Trelleborg Oil and Marine
Thursday October 27, 2016

The energy sector is changing rapidly in several regions as it looks to shift from the traditional model of vast land-built terminals, to a much more agile and scalable model. The result reflects an, as yet, quiet revolution in energy transportation, with ramifications for LNG transfer for power generation, or other uses, such as marine energy.

Whether for power generation or used as a transport fuel, LNG has a lot going for it; not only is it clean – with notably less emission levels compared to traditional fossil fuels – it's also flexible. New 'smart' power generation plants, for example, can start up in minutes compared to the several hours it takes for older coal or fuel oil-powered plants. This provides a complementary quick start-up solution for larger plants using traditional fuels, or, an alternative altogether.

Gas is also well suited for small and mini-scale gas power generation in developing countries or more remote regions. In July, 2016, a report by Transparency Market Research revealed that the small-scale LNG market will rise two-fold over the period between 2014 and 2022 - from nearly 42 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) to over 102 mtpa. There are of course numerous other growth areas for LNG, and regular readers of Ship & Bunker will be au fait with the development of LNG as a bunker fuel.

Despite its seemingly bright future, however, gas presents a new set of challenges for those required to transport it. Unlike its predecessors, coal and fuel oil, gas cannot be transported within the confines of a traditional bulk carrier or tanker. The conundrum is that gas needs to be liquefied for transport and transfer purposes; the maths is mind-blowing -- one cbm of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for power equates to 600 cbm of gas. Not only does this require new vessels, in the shape of LNG carriers, but it also requires fresh thinking in the 'transfer zone'; where ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore loading and unloading occurs.

Traditional thinking has been that, like coal and fuel oil, an LNG vessel would berth dockside and transfer using a jetty platform for ship-to-shore transfers, or, alongside Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU), using bridging arms or straightforward aerial hoses for ship-to-ship transfer. However, conventional thinking was based upon fossil fuels. Gas, and its liquefied form, present a different challenge in as much as it needs to be transported at a temperature of -163 degrees Celsius.

Cryoline Hoses

Trelleborg's own investment in research and development of Cryoline hoses – dating back seven years – illustrates just how significant this technology will be in enabling gas transfer and distribution over the coming decades. Cryoline LNG 'hose-in-hose' solutions combine existing and proven technologies (including composite hose and rubber bonded hoses), customized for LNG from longstanding technology that has been proven in oil transfer applications for the past 40 years.

Moreover, Cryoline hoses can be utilised throughout the LNG supply chain, for: production to storage (offshore and onshore), storage to transportation and delivery to an important terminal, or directly to regasification plants for power plant use – and, of course, bunkering. Specifically designed to withstand fatigue in even the most hazardous conditions, the hoses are operable in virtually all sea states, and are available with large inner diameters ranging from 6-inches to 20-inches, enabling them to cope with an LNG transfer flowrate of up to 10,000 m3/h.

While the uses of LNG diversify both in terms of profile and region, safety remains of paramount importance. Each Trelleborg cryogenic floating hose is equipped with an integrated monitoring system that utilizes innovative technology to detect even the slightest leak that may occur in the hose structure during loading and offloading. In addition, the hoses can be extended to up to 600 meters away from the shore, to ensure safety is assured in almost all conditions.

A report by Mordor Intelligence, published August 2016, entitled 'Global Cryogenic Equipment Market - Growth, Trends and Forecasts (2016 - 2021)', estimates that the global cryogenic equipment market was $15.3 billion in 2015 and projected to reach $23.5 billion by 2021, at a growth rate of 7.4% per annum during the forecast period.

As gas for power generation rises, so in turn will the number of vessels used to transport and store LNG to meet expanding demand. Shipping data provider Clarksons Research cited over 400 LNG tankers in the shipping market in 2016, with many newbuilds on order. This is only set to rise as shipowners are required to meet ever-tighter sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) regulations.

As well as larger ocean-going LNG tankers, as small scale gas power generation develops, it is likely that smaller LNG supply vessels will emerge to carry smaller parcels and transfer to and from other supporting infrastructure (bunkering). In addition, the utilization of floating regasification units (FRU) and floating storage units (FSU) is likely to increase, as energy companies and developers see the economic and logistical advantages of utilizing modularized and standardized floating assets.

Global demand for clean, reliable energy is continually growing. This comes in part from the rapid economic expansion plans of countries from the developing world, or from regions where traditionally the reality of realizing significant growth through access to reliable energy was not likely. Fresh, flexible and innovative technologies are key to making LNG a sustainable energy source for decades to come. The efficiency and safety elements of these burgeoning technologies cannot be underestimated, and can have the ability to completely revolutionize the energy sector's future outlook.