Maintenance of LNG Terminals
LNG terminals are an important part of America’s energy landscape. Liquefaction LNG terminals convert natural gas from its gaseous state into liquefied natural gas, or LNG. This makes the fuel much more efficient to transport since it only takes up about 1/600th the space it did in its gaseous form. By contrast regasification LNG terminals convert liquefied natural gas back into its gaseous state after it has been transported so that it can once again be used in applications that require gaseous natural gas.
As natural gas production in the US accelerates thanks to advancing technologies such as hydraulic fracking there is an increasing amount of natural gas to be processed by LNG terminals. That means that these terminals must be able to operate at or near peak capacity levels and that they must be able to maintain that demanding pace long term. In order to do that LNG terminals must be well maintained. Let’s take a look at why proper maintenance is so important and how types of maintenance, such as turnarounds, equipment repairs and upgrades, affect LNG terminals.
The Importance of Proper Maintenance for LNG Terminals
Maintenance is important at just about any industrial facility. It is particularly important at LNG terminals because it is one of the first lines of defense against costly outages, dangerous accidents, and production shortfalls. Some key implications for maintenance at LNG terminals include the following:
- Safety at the LNG Terminal – One of the primary goals of good maintenance at LNG terminals is to improve and maintain safety levels. While LNG itself cannot burn until it is mixed with air and is also unlikely to explode, other potentially dangerous gases and compounds are used in the refrigeration or re-gasification process. If mishandled or allowed to leak, such as might occur with faulty equipment and machinery, there is the risk of an accident occurring. LNG terminals must also take care to avoid contaminating surrounding water or soil. Good maintenance practices ensure that equipment and containers are secure and functioning properly, reducing the risk of contamination and accidents.
- Productivity and Output at the LNG Terminal – As discussed above LNG demand is rising and as such LNG terminals are having to maintain peak output levels. Faulty equipment poses the threat of a full breakdown or outage, which could be economically devastating to the terminal. Similarly equipment and machinery that is operating at subpar levels may not fail completely, but its efficiency and output will be reduced, raising operating costs and again negatively impacting production. Good maintenance will detect and resolve minor problems before they can escalate.
- Compliance with Regulations – LNG terminals are subject to a great deal of government regulation such as from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The LNG terminal may also be subject to state and local regulations. Part of these regulations typically includes the direct requirement that the LNG terminal undergo routine maintenance. In addition to this direct role, good maintenance practices will also help the terminal comply with general purity and safety guidelines and standards.
Turnarounds at LNG Terminals
During turnarounds the LNG terminal temporarily goes fully offline so that more intensive maintenance can be performed. This allows the maintenance workers to inspect and repair equipment that would normally be inaccessible while the facility is operational. Since turnarounds result in a complete cessation of profits from production, while simultaneously requiring a large financial expenditures to pay for the extra parts, labor, and equipment, it is crucial that the maintenance company performing the turnaround have strong cost control measures in place while also working quickly, efficiently, and safely to get the LNG terminal back online.
For more information about turnarounds check out our past articles on The Importance of Turnarounds in a Plant’s Operations and 7 Ways STI Group Maximizes the Effectiveness of a Turnaround.
Repairs and Equipment Upgrades at LNG Terminals
As we’ve mentioned occasional repairs and routine servicing of equipment is crucial for keeping the LNG terminal running at prime efficiency levels. Occasionally, however, a piece of equipment simply reaches the end of its useful service life, or alternatively new equipment becomes available that would get the job done with lower costs, higher efficiency, or greater safety. When that happens maintenance is also involved in the replacing and upgrading of equipment, ensuring that the new part or machinery is installed properly and running smoothly.
Industrial Services Companies Make Good Maintenance Possible
The maintenance duties discussed throughout this article are typically performed by a specialized industrial services company that has the dedicated manpower, equipment, and other resources to get the job thoroughly, quickly, and safely. STI Group is just such a company and we are proud to offer outstanding maintenance services for LNG terminals. We are committed to helping our LNG clients achieve their full potential with their LNG terminals and we have the experience and skills it takes to get the job done right, every time.