Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) has been in use for many years. In the past it had been more common in Europe and Asia than in the USA but that is changing rapidly. Large LNG ships have been loading in Africa and unloading in other parts of the world.
For the past 15-years I have been training tug boat crews who escort large LNG ships into and out of ports throughout the USA and Mexico. This training not only dealt with understanding the properties and dangers of LNG but I was also training these tug boat crews to use the powerful firefighting equipment installed on their boats. In addition to that training I have also conducted full scale evaluation drills at LNG facilities. These drills included the facility personnel, the tug boat crews, and the LNG ship’s crew.
I have written about LNG and the procedures used to mitigate small fires and emergencies dealing with this super cold product in the past and will not repeat it in its entirety here. However, I will repeat some of the information regarding the properties of LNG of
which you should be aware.
Liquid Natural Gas is a colourless, odourless liquid that is natural gas in a liquid form. Previously, the world’s major supplies of natural gas have not been available to areas remote from the gas wells, as the cost of shipping natural gas in its gaseous state was simply too expensive. Liquefying natural gas reduces its volume 600 times and, because of this reduction in volume, it became profitable to export natural gas in its liquid form.
LNG is formed by subjecting natural gas to extremely cold temperatures; at –260°F (–161°C) the gas becomes a liquid at atmospheric pressure. Liquids at these temperatures are considered cryogenic. The weight of LNG is also important. LNG weighs just 3.9 pounds (1.8 Kilograms) a gallon. This is important because the weight of a gallon of water is 8.3 pounds (3.8 Kilograms), which means that the LNG will float on the surface when spilled onto the water. After regasification and warming the gas from LNG will become lighter than air, but until then it will remain at ground level where it may find a source of ignition. LNG is almost pure methane, and so when LNG vapour burns, there is generally no visible smoke.
In this article I want to discuss some recent news about the wide spread proliferation of LNG being used as a fuel in our society.
Fire Departments which have LNG marine transfer facilities located in their response areas have been (or should have been) well aware and well trained in the properties of this super cold liquid and the measures needed to mitigate a fire or emergency involving LNG. Hopefully you have worked and drilled with the facility personnel so that you will conduct a coordinated response.
Without coordination among the parties involved there can be no meaningful attempt to control a fire or emergency involving LNG.
But what if your Fire Department does not have an LNG export or import terminal in your port? Your Fire Department may not even be located on a coast nor have a port of any kind within your jurisdiction. You may feel that, because of this, you have no need of the knowledge nor the tools to fight an LNG fire or emergency.
Well, welcome to the 21st. century!
For those of you who are located in or near a port, even if there has been no LNG presence in the past, you may have to deal with it now! LNG is no longer confined to massive cargo ships and land based tanks. Today you may find LNG almost anywhere. Recent discoveries of huge quantities of natural gas trapped underground within deposits of shale have made LNG much cheaper and much more readily available than it has in the past.
Add to that the new environmental regulations soon to be put in place, which will make it extremely expensive to use petroleum based fuels, and you will understand why there is such a large proliferation of LNG used as a fuel not just in ships but in all forms of transportation.
Currently, in Europe, there are ferries and tug boats using LNG as their only fuel. There are plans for most new work boats and ships to be built to either exclusively use LNG to fuel that vessel or have some form of duel-fuel engine which can burn LNG or switch while underway to a petroleum based fuel.
So, even if your port does not have an LNG import or export terminal, you still may have to deal with the LNG aboard another vessel which is using your ports facilities. Also of importance to firefighters is where these new vessels will re-fuel their LNG tanks. Many ports are now planning or building LNG “bunkering” facilities to re-fuel LNG powered vessels. Other ports are using LNG “bunkering” barges to use as a mobile re-fueling station. In some cases LNG tanker trucks will be used to re-fuel these vessels and other vessels will have portable LNG fuel tanks which can just be exchanged with full tanks when needed. Currently, a ferry and a tug boat in Norway are both fueled by tanker truck which drives out on the vessels dock to transfer the fuel.
OK, that accounts for the Fire Departments who are located on the coast or even on a commercial river.(I think that there are a few of those rivers in Europe and the USA!)
But, even if you are not located on or near any of those bodies of water you may still have to deal with LNG. Due to the previously mentioned fact that LNG will be more plentiful and thereby less expensive than it has been in the past, and also because it is considered a “clean fuel”, it is being employed in more and more uses and modes of transportation everyday.
So, those of you who are located inland and no where near a body of water big enough for commercial shipping may still find LNG powering something in your area. It could be a vehicle of some kind or just a piece of machinery that may now be powered by LNG.
There are LNG powered generators and pumps being put into use and there are or will be LNG powered busses, trucks, construction equipment, and locomotives1.
“These railroads are considering the use of LNG in locomotives because of the potential for significant fuel cost savings and the resulting reductions in fuel operating costs. Given the expected price difference between LNG and diesel fuel, future fuel savings are expected to more than offset the approximately $1 million incremental cost associated with an LNG locomotive and its tender.”2.
These locomotives are being designed with LNG tanks built into the tender-car which follows the lead engine. Photo right shows the LNG controls located in the tender car.
Do you have any locomotives in, or passing through, your District? Then you will need to know what procedures will be needed to handle emergencies involving these LNG powered trains. Even if there are no trains in your district, you still need to read on.
Busses are already using LNG as a fuel in many areas of the world. Many bus and truck fleets will have their own re-fueling facilities at their fleeting locations. Personnel have been trained in the safe procedures needed in the LNG re-fueling process.
Many International Trucking companies are either switching to LNG as a fuel or they are adding more LNG fueled tractors to their truck fleet.3
LNG liquefaction plants have been huge sites where massive LNG ships either deliver or pick up cargos of this super-cooled product. Some enterprising companies have developed a portable, modular LNG liquefaction plant that can be set up in remote areas. Some have even been placed in areas where they are actually drilling for the natural gas. As the gas is removed from the ground some is liquefied on site and used to fuel pumps and generators making the site self-sufficient.
National and International regulatory agencies have been attempting to keep up with new regulations and safety guidelines regarding both marine and land-based use of LNG as a fuel. These regulations should be understood and updates to safety bulletins should be reviewed to see if existing procedures need to be amended. For many Fire Departments this will be a new area of concern. In the past, Fire Department administrators have been criticized for re-acting rather than acting. Let’s not
wait until there is an emergency to train our Firefighters.
You will need to know what to do in fires and emergencies involving LNG. Many Fire Departments may have written guidelines for LNG in the past. It may be time to dust-off those guidelines or write new ones. The National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA) offers valuable information as well as suggested rules and guidelines dealing with LNG. There are also many industry web-sites devoted to explaining LNG’s safe handling and emergency procedures. One is the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG). Their web-site is located at http://www.lngfacts.org/
All of these modes of transportation will need to be re-fueled. Fleets of busses, long-haul trucks, construction equipment, government vehicle fleets will be looking for a local LNG gas station.
You will see more and more LNG re-fueling stations along your highways and in your cities. If you and your Firefighters are not current on your LNG training then you should get started now. The next vessel or vehicle fire you go to may have a placard like this one.
Will your Firefighters be ready? Until next time, stay safe.
[su_box title=”In my previous article dealing with Fire Plans.” box_color=”#a00500″ radius=”5″]I inadvertently included bulkheads and doors as places where you would find the icon for a fire damper. Fire dampers, of course are found in air handling ducts. The closure for an opening in a bulkhead is called a FLAP and would be indicated by the icon below.[/su_box]
- EIA projects that liquefied natural gas (LNG) will play an increasing role in powering freight locomotives in coming years. Continued growth in domestic natural gas production and substantially lower natural gas prices compared to crude oil prices could result in significant cost savings for locomotives that use LNG as a fuel source, according to EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 AEO2014).
- http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=15831 Author Nicholas Chase
- “UPS is adding even more natural gas vehicles to its existing fleet of 112 LNG tractors, augmenting recently announced plans for some 700 new LNG trucks with word that it would add 250 more…” Fleets and Fuels web-site – http://www.fleetsandfuels.com/fuels/cng/2013/07/ups-boosts-lng-plans-adds-cng/[/su_note]