Fuelling ships in the Nordic regions; shale gas fields in the United States; vehicle use across the globe; an energy resource to power major cities in China and other developing countries – these are just some of the applications which demonstrate the incredible scope and breadth of the LNG industry.

But behind this dynamic story of growth and global opportunity, I hear major concerns at the diverse LNG forums and conferences I attend. Experts in the shipping industry in particular, highlight the impact on safety as we race to keep up with new LNG applications. Ship fuelling, bunkering, vehicle fuelling, mobile stations and a multitude of other uses raise the question ­– who should set technical and safety standards?

Lessons we can learn
Safety is a concern we share at Herose. As a world-leading cryogenic valve provider, we make cryogenic valves that are built to endure and which have an unrivalled safety record. We know that safety is the key to commercial success because of the fatal impact that accidents can have on people, the environment, an organisation’s shareholder value and the reputation of the industry. What’s more, it only takes one incident to ruin a company’s perfect safety record, as we’ve seen in the industrial gas industry.

If we repeat similar incidents with LNG, the consequences for the entire industry will be catastrophic. In 1994, an industrial gas incident in Germany was caused when a cryogenic vessel exploded, resulting in a fatality. Concerns about all low-pressure vessels and high-pressure trailer pumping resulted in changes to vessel and valve codes in many countries. Today, industrial gas has regulating authorities and is managed by the major industrial gas companies who drive high industry standards and make working with industrial gas safer than ever.

Processes such as filling have become a daily activity in the LNG industry; in the industrial gas sector this is governed by stringent standards. As LNG applications diversify, surely now is the time to learn from previous mistakes and adopt standards, rather than wait for an issue to drive change?

Who should set LNG standards?
Of course the majority of company’s using LNG take their safety responsibility seriously and make sure their systems and components meet industry specifications. However, at Herose, we advise on and supply the valves needed for every stage of the cryogenic storage and transportation process and we still see companies using different types of valve for the same application. In view of this, there is a need to develop global, mandatory standards. So who should take the lead in setting them?

Perhaps relevant industries need to form partnerships to consider whether the responsibility lies within the specific sectors using equipment such as oil and gas, shipping or industrial gas sectors. Alternatively, global equipment manufacturers have an in depth understanding of what is required with installations; or national or global agencies could take ownership?

Industrial gas and LNG – two industries one set of standards?
Gas associations and safety organisations that protect the LNG and industrial gas industries include SIGTTO. They are the world’s leading safety organisation for LNG, encompassing almost all the world’s LNG tanker and terminal operators. The industrial gas industry has the CGA in North America, EIGA in Europe and other international organisations including AIIGMA, JIGA, AIGA and ANZIGA. The CGA co-operates with its sister organisation EIGA to develop harmonised technical rules to protect the industry, personnel and the public. It could be highly beneficial to both the LNG and industrial gas sectors to harmonise standards for LNG use.

Indeed, many equipment manufacturers supplying the LNG market operate to the standards of the industrial gas industry. As the specifications for vessels and valves used in these markets often differ, surely there’s a need for our associations to work together to agree joint standards and share best practice across the full range of cryogenic applications.

Colleagues in each association and industry sector have different views and recently I have heard some powerful messages promoting the safe use of LNG. However these have related to individual market sectors not LNG as a whole.

An unbroken safety record for LNG shipping
The LNG shipping industry has operated safely, loading and unloading at LNG terminals worldwide, for over 45 years. A group of inspection agencies approve all types of equipment used in shipping and strongly promotes standards for pressure containing equipment and valves. This group, together with the international inspection agency, SIGTTO, have contributed greatly to safety standards. Regulation has led to an unbroken safety record, giving the industry its licence to operate.

Although the last few years have seen less demand on existing fleets to ship LNG, new uses and applications for LNG are likely to mean that fleet sizes will increase over the next five to ten years. This will be achieved safely using the standards already practised in shipping.

With the development of LNG fuel for use in ship propulsion, inspection agencies also inspect and approve fuelling systems on ships and bunkering stations. However, the focal points for bunkering installations and the loading and unloading of smaller ships at river installations need to be regulated not only in Europe but worldwide.

Oil and gas companies have invested greatly in the shipping of LNG, selling it for use as a global energy resource. The loading and unloading of ships carrying LNG is similar to the industrial gas sector, although the latter loads and unloads its cargo more frequently and takes almost a day longer to complete. In the industrial gas industry, the major industrial gas companies enforce mandatory safety standards and procedures, once again ensuring an impeccable safety record.

Diverse standards in China
There are a growing number of small to mid-scale LNG processing plants across the globe. As LNG pioneers, Herose were one of the first suppliers to respond to this emerging LNG market over 10 years ago. Today we have cryogenic valves installed in over 168 plants in China alone. Specifications for Chinese plants have been developed by the processing industry, while saving stations (storage plants) follow the same standards as either the oil and gas industry or the industrial gas industry, depending on vessel size. Chinese equipment manufacturers use standards taken from the industrial gases industry for applications with argon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. The standards for these varied projects often come from many different industries, yet the medium for them all is LNG.

Equipment manufacturers supply storage vessels, trailers and rail cars to transport LNG from terminals or saving stations to the point of use. Mainly small to mid-scale plants use this equipment. Having already supplied the industrial gas market, suppliers have risen to the challenge of manufacturing cryogenic equipment for new and developing LNG applications such as ship fuelling and bunkering. Again applications are similar to those used in the industrial gas market and therefore use industrial gas standards.

Selecting the right valve is critical
Industry associations have an important role in regulating activities, but there is still some way to go to establish standards for valves and to guarantee safety in all LNG installations. When accidents inevitably happen, processes must be in place to make sure that systems shutdown effectively and that the right valves are always used. This is why selecting the right valve is critical. For example, fire-safe valves are designed to withstand extremely hot temperatures and emergency shut-down (ESD) valves close quickly to prevent fire from spreading, so closing time is important.

At Herose our valves and valve packages are designed, manufactured and tested before leaving our manufacturing plant to ensure they protect plant, personnel and the public. The following highlights the valve options for each application:

  • Ship Fuelling – manual and control globe valves; ESD globe and gate valves with fire-safe control trim; safety and changeover valves
  • Trailers – manual globe, gate and ball valves; ESD gate valves with fire-safe options; safety and changeover valves
  • Bunkering – manual globe, gate, ball and butterfly valves; breakaway couplings; quick closing valves with fire-safe control trim; safety and changeover valves
  • Storage vessel – manual globe, gate and ball valves; breakaway couplings; ESD actuated valves with fire-safe control trim; safety and changeover valves
  • LNG Containers – drain and sampling globe valves with fire-safe control trim
  • Terminals & Plants – higher pressure globe, gate, full-bore butterfly and ball valves; ESD actuated valves; safety and changeover valves

When selecting valves, as well as getting the right type of valve you must consider:

  • valve trim
  • closing times
  • intrinsic safety type for electrical actuation complete with any other ancillaries
  • fire-safe options to protect your plant and personnel
  • service intervals for all equipment including valves – as reliability plays a major role in improving industry standards, while also reducing total life costs.

Such factors become more critical as LNG supplies are moved closer to densely populated areas so that the gas can be used as an energy resource and for vehicle fuelling stations. This is why it is vital that global associations co-operate to make sure that valves and other components meet the highest safety standards. Without doubt, the vast reserves of natural gas in many areas of the world make it the fuel of the future. Therefore LNG’s role in the market will continue to grow and prosper as long as the industry is safely regulated to protect its personnel, the general public and our industry.

Published On: December 20th, 2012 / Categories: Company /