There are more than 110 LNG facilities operating in the U.S. performing a variety of services. LNG is produced (liquefied), stored, transported, and readied for use (regasified) in several types of facilities. Some facilities export natural gas from the U.S., some provide natural gas supply to the interstate pipeline system or local distribution companies, while others are used to store natural gas for periods of peak demand. There are also facilities which produce LNG for vehicle fuel or for industrial use.
- Peak-shaving Plants – Natural gas shortages in the 1970s drove the construction peak-shaving plants. Natural gas usage demand fluctuates daily and seasonally. To ensure adequate supplies of natural gas when demand is at its peak, natural gas transmission pipeline operators and local distribution companies liquefy natural gas for storage when user demand for the gas is low. The operators can then regasify the LNG and distribute the natural gas to users when demand is high (at its peak).
LNG storage enables a reliable supply of natural gas in areas where pipeline capacity limitations and weather conditions may cause supply and demand discrepancies, notably in the northeastern United States, thus increasing efficiency and reliability in supplying needed energy resources. LNG peak-shaving plants typically have significantly less LNG storage capacity than import and export terminals but are strategically located in the pipeline system.
- Satellite Plants – Satellite plants are also used for peak-shaving demands but do not include the process equipment needed to liquefy natural gas. Instead, LNG is delivered to satellite plants by specially-equipped trucks, where it is stored onsite and then regasified and injected into the natural gas distribution systems when needed to meet user demand.
- Vehicular Fuel LNG Plants – Some LNG plants provide LNG to be used for rail, highway, and waterway vehicular fuel. Although the fueling infrastructure and fleet buildouts for LNG are limited, their expansion can enable local and regional delivery and distribution trucking fleets to leverage the ability to use LNG as an alternative to other fuels such as gasoline and diesel.
- LNG is used for marine bunkering. One of the main drivers for LNG as ship fuel is the introduction of more stringent emissions limits in Emission Control Areas (ECA). ECAs are defined as waters within 200 nautical miles of North American coasts and within 50 nautical miles of the coasts of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. ECAs’ purpose is to reduce the sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions of ocean-going vessels.
LNG is also emerging as a locomotive fuel and to fuel gas and oil drilling equipment. LNG (i.e., natural gas) is becoming recognized as a cleaner, more environmentally-friendly fuel, and can be cost-effective in areas where the LNG fueling infrastructure is available.
- LNG Transportation – LNG can be transported in specially-designed trucks, ISO containers, bunker barges, and ocean-going ships to areas where there is a demand for but an inadequate supply of natural gas or where the natural gas transportation infrastructure is inadequate.
- For international transportation of exported LNG, LNG is loaded onto ocean-going container ships that are specially designed and constructed for safety and to ensure the LNG remains in its liquid form during long transports. Once an LNG shipment arrives at a receiving LNG import terminal, the LNG is typically off-loaded into well-insulated and refrigerated storage tanks and stored until needed. It is then regasified and the natural gas is injected into pipelines for further transportation and distribution.
- LNG Export and Import Terminals – An LNG export terminal is a facility built specifically to receive natural gas from transmission pipelines, liquefy it, store it, and transfer the LNG to ships for export to other countries. An LNG import terminal reverses that process, receiving imported LNG from foreign exporters, storing it as needed, regasifying it to a gaseous state, and injecting it into the United States’ gas transmission pipeline infrastructure for further transportation. Some plants may have the capability of both preparing LNG for export and receiving imported LNG for domestic use. LNG export and import terminals include two types, those located outside State waters (deepwater port terminals) and those located on the coastline or within State waters.
As of June 2016, four LNG export terminals were under construction and one recently commissioned:
- Dominion Energy's Cove Point LNG facility in Cove Point, Maryland, was scheduled to bring one train totaling 0.82 billion cubic feet per day online near the end of 2017.
- Sabine Pass LNG, a Cheniere project, was under construction in Corpus Christi, Texas. The terminal was scheduled to begin service in 2018, with total permitted capacity at 2.14.
- Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG terminal, located in Hackberry, Louisiana, was under construction and scheduled to bring three trains online in 2018, with a total of export capacity of 1.7.
- Freeport LNG's terminal planned for Freeport, Texas, had three trains under construction, totaling 1.8. The first two were scheduled to begin service in 2019, and the third in 2020.
See LNG Data & Maps to identify the locations of LNG facilities within the U.S.