Compact high efficiency natural gas liquefier

Affordable energy is a key concern in the 21st century. Since the late 1980s, natural gas has become more widely available and more popular, as well as, environmentally friendly. As a result, gas demand is outrunning the current supply sys-tem, causing both high prices and price volatility. According to the Department of Energy, the de-mand for natural gas is expected to increase 25% over the next decade. Although most natural gas is carried from well to user as gas in pipelines, the use of liquefied natu-ral gas (LNG) is increasing because of new appli-cations and changing market forces in the energy industry. A typical modern, large lique-faction plant costs billions of dollars, produces 150,000+ gallons/day, uses 20-30% of its throughput to power it, and has substantial operating and maintenance costs. Conse-quently, there is a clear need for small, reliable, inexpensive liquefaction processes that work efficiently with untreated natural gas and that can be lo-cated close to LNG markets. Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) have devel-oped for the first time a liquefaction technology that is very compact, yet able to use natural gas directly from transmission lines without costly pretreatment to remove water and carbon diox-ide contaminants. The INL technology produces LNG that is competitive with that produced in some of the largest facilities worldwide. The se-cret of INL’s highly efficient technology is that it uses “free” energy from pipeline pressure letdown to liquefy the natural gas, and it incorporates a patented centrifugal solids separation step to re-move frozen carbon dioxide that could clog the system. INL recognized the far-reaching applications of this technology when it was first disclosed in 1997. In 2000, a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern Cali-fornia Gas Company led to the construction of a 10,000-gallon/day plant in Sacramento. Its compact size and automated operation allowed the liquefaction facility to be located within Sac-ramento’s historic district. In 2004 INL licensed the technology in a par-ticular field of use to Hanover Compression LP. The INL compact high-efficiency natural gas liq-uefier has generated worldwide licensing interest, with inquiries from 36 countries. Representa-tives from many of these countries—which in-clude Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Bangladesh—have visited INL or the Sacramento liquefaction facility. In 2006, the technology was honored with an R&D 100 Award recognizing the 100 most technologically significant products and advancements in the world; and it also received an FLC Far West Region Award for Outstanding Technology Development.
Award Year: 
Far West