World LNG imports have increased at an average annual rate of 7.5%, more than doubling during the last decade. LNG now accounts for 28% of total international gas trade and 6% of the total world consumption of gas. The increasing use of natural gas for power generation, the dwindling supplies of gas in developed regions, and the desire to monetize large reserves of stranded gas will keep the LNG industry growing at a fast pace. Global LNG trade could reach 200 million tons by 2010 and 350 million tons by 2020.
Japan and Korea have been the driving forces of the LNG industry. Together, the two countries import more than 60% of the world LNG traded volume. However, the LNG industry is becoming increasingly more diverse. New consumers include Portugal, the Dominican Republic and India, which opened its first terminal in early 2004. China and the United Kingdom are also constructing their first import terminals.
The United States has surpassed France to become the world’s fourth largest LNG importer. Over the next decade, LNG imports are expected to play an increasingly important role as a source of natural gas supply in the United States, filling the gap from domestic production and pipeline imports. Several projects for new U.S. LNG terminals have been announced and all four existing terminals have plans to expand their capacities.
The so-called LNG chain consists of a number of steps that link the natural gas reserve to the end-user. After being condensed in a liquefaction plant, LNG is transported in specially designed double-hulled ships and unloaded to a receiving terminal, where it is stored and regasified for final distribution. In this Review, we examine recent commercial and technology developments in the regasification of LNG. We also present a conceptual design and economic evaluation of a regasification plant producing 7.0 million metric tons per year (1 Billion standard cubic feet per day) of pipeline natural gas.