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Small-scale LNG port infrastructure: aligning safety and economics

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Author(s): Jacob Genauer, Naval Architect and Marine Engineer, Braemar Engineering, Houston, TX, USA

Leading ports in Europe, North America and Asia are taking steps to capitalise on the new reality of small-scale LNG. While Norway started the trend and set examples for standards and practices, not everyone is developing their small-scale LNG infrastructure in the Norwegian image.

Safety

The LNG industry takes pride in its high standards that have been essential in maintaining its enviable safety record. Industry leaders are rightly concerned that one incident with LNG as a marine fuel could put a damper on the burgeoning small-scale industry, and even impact the reputation of conventional LNG. While the cryogenic characteristics are the same, small-scale LNG and conventional LNG have vastly different risk profiles, those concerning small-scale LNG include: • Prominence of pressure vessel storage in small-scale LNG will mean boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions (BLEVEs) are a more tangible risk (increasing the frequency of incidents) • Elimination/downgrading of risk-reducing equipment that is standard for conventional LNG but unjustified or impractical at small scale (increasing the frequency of incidents) • Reduced segregation of LNG from unrelated hazards (increasing the frequency of incidents) • Volumes and flow-rates are one to three orders of magnitude smaller (reducing consequence of incidents) • LNG transfer operations become more commonplace which can lead to increased competency, but also lead to complacency, particularly when coupled with overburdened crews (unclear impact on the frequency of incidents) There are two approaches to smallscale LNG safety. The first approach maintains that small-scale LNG should follow the standards and best practices of conventional LNG, except where strong technical justification exists for accepting a lesser standard. The second approach contends that the most economical method may be used so long as it satisfies a quantitative risk assessment. In theory, the two approaches should yield similar results. It is not so in practice. It seems that the industry leans towards the second approach, but incidents such as the Fjord Line / Skangass spillage at Risavika (on May 9, 2014) may trigger a shift to be more conservative.


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