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The 17th International Conference & Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG 17) took place in April at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. It spread across four days and consisted of more than 50 topical sessions, panels, roundtable discussions, poster sessions and lectures.
Approximately 5,000 delegates from 80 countries heard from over 300 speakers, including government ministers and senior industry analysts, as well as senior executives from leading LNG suppliers. Hosted by the American Gas Association, the event explored the role of gas in a carbon-constrained world, discussing key issues facing the industry such as U.S. gas exports, LNG for transportation and pricing.
Keynote speakers noted that the abundance of shale and tight gas is rapidly moving the U.S. from being a net LNG importer to an exporter. As a result, up to 10 large LNG export facilities are being built or studied for completion within the next six years.
Several turbomachinery sessions were dedicated to LNG machinery development from OEMs such as Mitsubishi, Siemens, General Electric and Dresser Rand, and users such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Woodside, and Apache. Most of the discussion focused on the challenges of operating extremely large compression machinery in today’s mega LNG facilities. Large LNG producers such as Rasgas from Qatar shared machinery operating experience and technical challenges with the audience.
A number of papers focused on improved machinery strategies for future large and mid-sized LNG plants. For example, large frame 7 and frame 9 single-shaft gas turbines have been utilized for LNG production refrigeration over the last 10 years. However, there is now significant movement toward large variable speed electric motor drives and even a resurgence of using mid-size aero-derivative gas turbines in smaller LNG train configurations.
Another area of growing oil and gas company interest in the U.S. is the development of a network of local small-scale production facilities to serve the anticipated need of LNG for the transportation markets, such as trucking, barge transportation and rail locomotives. As these facilities produce approximately 10 to 100 times less than today’s LNG export plants, they pose a completely different set of turbomachinery application and design challenges. Both Dresser Rand and General Electric showcased novel technologies for this small-scale LNG production.
The next LNG conference in this series (LNG 18) will be held in Perth, Australia in April 2016.