Most of the liquefied natural gas, or LNG, the U.S. exports leaves on big tanker ships. But with so much natural gas being produced right now, companies are seeking out other ways to move LNG internationally. In fact, at least one company has carved out a niche, shipping natural gas by way of overland transport, and tapping into a growing market south of the border.
Sergio Chapa reports on the oil and gas industry for the Houston Chronicle. He says the tankers transporting LNG are similar to the 18-wheelers that deliver gasoline or diesel, but much bigger.
“One of those trucks can only hold about 9,300 gallons of LNG, whereas one of those [gasoline] tankers can hold hundreds of thousands or millions of gallons,” Chapa says.
Chapa says the LNG industry is a niche business – accounting for less than 1% of natural gas exports to Mexico – but it commands premium prices.
“You’re serving customers that are off the power grid, far away from distribution networks for natural gas pipelines, and therefore you can command a higher price for what you’re selling,” Chapa says.
Transporting LNG by truck requires quick work. Since LNG naturally occurs as a gas, drivers have only 40 days to get it to its destination before it evaporates.
“Ships have their own refrigerants and coolers,” Chapa says. “They can keep it cooler for much longer as it goes from Texas to Asia, but on these tanker trucks it’s a limited amount of time.”
Shipping LNG by rail is currently banned in the United States, but Chapa says the industry is excited to hopefully move in that direction soon.
“[President Trump] actually signed an executive order asking the Department of Transportation to lift the ban on shipping LNG by rail, and a number of people in the industry have been trying to get that ban lifted for about the past 37 to 40 years,” Chapa says. “This is their best shot in years.”
Written by Sara Schleede.