What is LNG?

LNG is liquefied natural gas produced over millions of years from organic matter such as plankton and algae. Methane, which makes up 95% of it, is the cleanest of all fossil fuels. The combustion of natural gas emits mainly water vapour and small amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). This quality allows it to generate 30 to 50% less CO2 emissions than other fuels.

To carry out this transport, natural gas is cooled after extraction by a refrigeration cycle (compression, condensation, expansion, evaporation) which transforms it into a liquid state at -160°C: this is known as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

LNG, which is largely made up of methane (85 to 99%), is odourless, colourless, non-toxic and non-corrosive, making it possible to store and transport very large quantities of liquefied natural gas on LNG carriers and/or trackers. These consist of thermally insulated tanks designed to keep the natural gas in a liquid state at -160°C.

LNG is the cleanest of all fossil fuels

LNG is the cleanest of all fossil fuels. In the context of the current energy transition set by the European Commission, it represents an excellent alternative for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting global warming.

The combustion of natural gas emits no soot, dust or smoke. It generates 30% less carbon dioxide (CO2) than fuel oil, 45% less than coal, twice as little nitrogen oxide (NOx) and almost no sulphur dioxide (SO2), which is harmful to the environment.

In this sense, natural gas offers an excellent complement in an energy mix with renewable energies (solar, wind, biomass) to produce electricity or fuel.

The qualities of natural gas (low impact of its combustion on the environment), its energy performance and its abundant reserves widely distributed throughout the world make it an energy of the future : the consumption of natural gas should reach 25% of the world's energy portfolio by 2035, compared to 21% today, i.e. a demand of 5,000 billion m3 (Gm3).

In order to meet the challenges of the 21st century, which include the fight against global warming and environmental protection, the European Commission, for example, has adopted a framework of actions setting in particular a binding objective of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990), as well as measures to reduce polluting emissions. The success of these initiatives depends on the development of new energy sources and changes in behaviour.

LNG is an alternative to fuel oil, LPG and coal

But what are the advantages of LNG?

Natural gas enables compliance with new environmental standards. Compared to diesel, natural gas fuel represents a reduction of :

  • 25% less carbon dioxide (CO2),
  • 80% of nitrogen oxide (NOx),
  • 97% of carbon monoxide (CO) emissions.

By comparison, a thermal power plant running on natural gas instead of coal reduces its emissions by :

  • 81% of carbon dioxide (CO2),
  • 80% of nitrogen oxides (NOx),
  • 100% reduction in sulphur dioxide (SO2) and fine particles.

The reduced environmental impact of natural gas is such that if coal-fired power plants were replaced by natural gas-fired power plants, CO2 emissions from the European energy sector would be reduced by 60%, and by 20% worldwide.

LNG is a solution for private individuals and industrialists who are looking for budgetary control of an economically stable and accessible source of energy: indeed, LNG is an alternative to fuel oil, LPG and coal, which allows industrialists to save on their energy supply costs and on the maintenance costs of their equipment.

LNG has three main interests :

  • Firstly, it allows gas to be transported over very long distances. So when resources are far from the point of consumption, the only solution is to liquefy gas at - 160°C, transport it in ships and convoys and deliver it to terminals for regasification, rather than building pipes over tens of thousands of kilometres.
  • Secondly, it offers flexibility in terms of destinations. We can redirect ships or convoys according to demand around the world and thus cope with peak periods, which is impossible for pipelines. This was the case, for example, after the Fukushima accident and the resulting shutdown of the entire nuclear fleet, where Japan relied heavily on LNG flows to meet its electricity needs.
  • Thirdly, LNG provides unparalleled competitiveness in terms of cost per kWh compared to other fossil fuels. It should also be noted that LNG has been awarded a 'green' label in the European Union (February 2022) as an energy that can contribute to an energy transition.