What is LNG?
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas that has been cooled to a liquid state, at about -260°Fahrenheit, for shipping and storage. The volume of natural gas in its liquid state is about 600 times smaller than its volume in its gaseous state. This process, which was developed in the 19th century, makes it possible to transport natural gas to places pipelines do not reach.
Liquefying natural gas is a way to move natural gas long distances when pipeline transport is not feasible. Markets that are too far away from producing regions to be connected directly to pipelines have access to natural gas because of LNG. In its compact liquid form, natural gas can be shipped in special tankers to terminals in the United States and in other countries. At these terminals, the LNG is returned to its gaseous state and transported by pipeline to distribution companies, industrial consumers, and power plants.
The United States imports and exports LNG. Sometimes, LNG originally imported to the United States is re-exported to other destinations where prices are higher. In 2015, the United States imported about 92 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of LNG. Nearly all LNG imports were from Trinidad and Tobago, Norway, and Yemen. A small amount of LNG was imported from Canada.
In 2015, about 28 Bcf of LNG was exported from the United States, which included about 12 Bcf of re-exported LNG. Brazil (at 48%), Egypt (at 25%), and Turkey (at 27%) received the majority of the re-exported LNG. Of the remaining 16 Bcf of LNG exports, Japan and Taiwan each received about half, and small amounts were exported on trucks to Canada and Mexico.
Because LNG is more energy dense than gaseous natural gas, there is increasing interest in using LNG as a fuel for heavy-duty vehicles and other transportation applications.