New LNG terminals could be designed “hydrogen ready”

The import capacity of the world’s 180 LNG terminals now reaches around one billion tonnes per year, but more import facilities will be needed to handle the transition volumes.

These statistics were published by Poten, a “knowledge partner” of Hydrogen Asia 2024 which will be held in Singapore at the end of July, in a paper assessing the possible replacement of carbon-based fuels, including LNG, with hydrogen at low carbon content. and its derivatives such as ammonia.

Considering the number of existing LNG import terminals and new ones that will be needed in the coming years, Poten has examined the feasibility of converting these terminals for liquid hydrogen and/or liquid ammonia, as a derivative hydrogen.

The company’s analysts believe that ammonia is a more practical way to transport hydrogen by sea: it is safer, has a higher calorific value per unit of volume, a lower evaporation rate and costs lower production and shipping. Additionally, it has been shipped by sea and handled safely at terminals for decades.

The Poten analysis compares the requirements linked to the conversion of existing terminals with the construction of new terminals, for ammonia or hydrogen. Existing LNG facilities are not ideally suited to either, but reusing selected components from LNG terminals could generate potential savings of between $100 million in the case of liquid hydrogen and $300 to $400 million dollars for ammonia.

There are no examples yet of existing LNG import terminals converted to receive carbon-neutral fuel. However, a number of planned terminals are designed to be “hydrogen ready”. Strategies include leaving an LNG terminal largely intact for the import of synthetic or green LNG which can then be cracked into hydrogen at an adjacent site, with the carbon dioxide captured for sequester or re-export.

Alternatively, the jetty and flowlines could be designed for the importation of ammonia as a second product. Additional space could be allocated to storage and export of ammonia, or cracking into hydrogen.

Designing terminals in this way could reduce the cost of the future transition to carbon-neutral fuels by allowing additional infrastructure to be built and expanded over time, Poten said. In addition to cost savings, terminal development could be faster thanks to an agreement in principle by regulators for the future importation of new fuels, such as ammonia, agreed at the outset.

Poten also assessed possible transport capacity needs. Ammonia is currently transported by sea on ships similar to LPG carriers. But new demand for ammonia shipping capacity would require new ships. Converting carriers from LPG to ammonia is not technically difficult, but returning a vessel to the LPG trade after working in the ammonia trade is complicated.

Product and chemical carriers could be repurposed to transport green ammonia or methanol, analysts say. However, although technically viable, the number of ships redeployed in this way is likely to be very small. If either fuel is adopted on a large scale to replace coal or LNG, the demand for transportation capacity to serve dedicated terminals will increase rapidly. In this case, for example, a new generation of very large ammonia carriers will be required.