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US firm outlines its LNG terminal cool-down procedure at start-up

Osifo Akhuemonkhan and Roberto Ruiperez Vara, CHIV International, Baltimore, Maryland As companies around the world push forward with their plans to commission new LNG import facilities, it is common to see critical activities associated with the cool-down of such facilities given a low priority when compared to other commissioning activities. The push to make final preparations for cool-down often results in a gap between the level of preparation and detail included in procedures and the expectations at the engineering, procurement and construction phase. All too often the owner-operator does not recognize the gap until it is too late. The quality of operator training is often compromised and delays in commissioning are frequent, as late modifications are made to process piping and equipment to properly handle the cool-down. This article identifies commissioning strategies owner-operators can adopt to bridge the potential cool-down gap and ensure a smooth, safe and effective terminal start-up and transition to operations. For the most part, companies that design and construct LNG storage tanks have well-developed and well-established procedures for clean-up, dry-out and cooldown of their tanks. It is not suggested that there are typically large gaps in expectation for the commissioning and cool-down of the tanks, but the facility owner-operator should still closely monitor all LNG tankrelated commissioning activities. of

After the completion of LNG import terminals, such as the one above, modifications are made to process piping and equipment to handle the cool-down procedure. This is before the first LNG cargoes are delivered to the facility
before start-up is defining what is clean when determining pipe cleanliness. Depending on the party and the level responsibility, clean is usually somewhere between no hard hats or pieces of 2x4s in the lines to no microscopic dust. Clean may best be defined as having removed any foreign matter that could harm equipment during ensuing commissioning and start-up activities. Although high flow pipe blows are often the approach used to clean lengths of pipe, one must consider the effect of welding slag or foam glass dust on soft valve seals during these blows. For example, most LNG pumps use the LNG itself to cool and lubricate the pump bearings. Once in operation, if foreign materials plug the cooling paths or damage the bearings, the pump could suffer a total failure. In addition to vendor-specific preinstallation storage requirements, the following are some other precautionary steps that will minimize issues arising from poor cleaning and/ dry-out. Piping: Confirm that the design of the piping includes low point drains throughout the cryogenic system. Store piping components with end caps in place until they are installed. Seal opens ends of piping during construction when access is not required. Large diameter vents to atmosphere should be cut diagonally at their ends so as to prevent entry of water on rainy days. Valves: Install a locking mechanism in each valve to avoid accidental opening or closing of the valves during pipeline cleaning or other construction activities. In most cases valves are delivered by vendors in an open position, it is best that valves be installed and locked in this position. In particular, during the cleaning process avoid blowing through butterfly valves, control valves or other valves with exposed seats. For example, blowing debris through butterfly valves can easily damage the disc. In such situations a spool piece should be installed in place of these valves and, subsequent to cleaning, the butterfly valves should be golden welded into the pipelines to prevent the need for pressure testing. Some vendors offer additional protection for the moving parts of the valve to prevent damage from impacts caused by high speed particles. Unnecessary opening and closing of valves may encourage build up of debris and other particles present in piping. If valves need to be operated prior to or during pipe cleaning, these operations should be properly supervised and proper procedures should be utilized for cleaning soft seats. A method to confirm that valve trunnions are absolutely dry (no free water) prior to initiation of piping dry-out should be developed. One example would be to install heat tracing on the valve trunnions. Valve seat durability is generally proportional to the price you pay for the valve. But take into account that even the highest quality valve seat may get damaged by foreign materials.

Cryogenic dry-out
To allow proper operation of the facility, all cryogenic piping must be thoroughly dried out. Small quantities of water, or even water vapor, can freeze in valve bodies, valve trunnions, pump parts and passages, instrument connections, strainer media or any low point in the piping system. This could prevent or restrict operation of equipment and/or lead to failure of the bearing materials, such as the galling of trunnion bearings. In addition particles of ice that breakaway and are carried through the cryogenic system may clog strainers, block the cooling paths in the LNG pumps or damage valve seats. Once a system is inventoried with LNG, these issues become extremely difficult to resolve purged, as these lines/components may have to be deinventoried, warmed-up, repaired, purged again, re-dried, recooled and re-inventoried. Such actions could also cause a delay in the start-up schedule and become very costly for the owner-operator or EPC contractor.

Preparations for an LNG facility start-up require that detailed procedures be developed and implemented for the following activities: Piping and equipment clean-up Dry-out Purge Pre-cool-down Cool-down

Piping clean-up
After construction, piping, valves and vessels often contain certain amounts of construction debris and possibly free water that has accumulated over the long months of construction. One of the first gaps encountered in the closing months

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Less obvious are the potential issues on how to re-cool the repaired section of the plant with LNG present in other sections. Hence, it is very important that all piping systems expected to experience cryogenic temperatures are dried out before placed in operation. It is also important that consideration be given to drying out the facility long before mechanical completion of the cryogenic piping as many problems in dry-out can occur as a result of poor (or hurried) planning and preparation.

most effective method of assuring that the cryogenic systems are properly dried out. With the Sweep and Soak technique the drying medium (dry air or nitrogen with a dew point of -60C/-80F) is introduced at one or more points in the cryogenic piping system and allowed to flow through a large portion of the system and is then vented to atmosphere. As the name implies, the goal is to sweep the entire piping section or system until the TDP is reached. This by no means indicates that that piping section is dry, it only indicates that dry media is available throughout the

gas in petrochemical industries can freeze under cryogenic temperatures. Much as with dry-out, the commissioning team should have a well prepared procedure detailing the method to be used to purge the system and in particular, the sequence and timing of steps, including rate of introduction of the purge medium and verification of end points. Once the amount of nitrogen needed has been accurately calculated a supply of the whole amount has to be arranged. The commissioning team will need to decide whether a displacement or dilution/ mixing method will be used for the purge. In the former, the purging gas is introduced to remove the existing gas without mixing both gases. Although some mixing cannot be avoided, with the use of lower pressures and proper exit points it can be minimized. The quantity of purge gas needed is therefore about equal to the quantity of gas to be displaced. The latter method is used when the piping limitations force you to pressurize and depressurize the system to remove the gas to be purged.

systems that involve multiple elevations, a significant number of elbows and/or a tight envelope is less predictable. Final cool-down is not the time to find out that the piping did not move as expected. Unexpected pipe movement can result in insulation damage, pipe guide misalignment and/or mechanical damage to the pipe and/or pipe support systems. A test can confirm that piping will move as expected. Critical pipe supports should be pre-marked with initial and expected movement before the start of the test. . 3. Confirmation of final cool-down procedure: Often, cool-down of the LNG transfer system is performed with an LNG carrier connected to the unloading system. In this scenario it is very difficult to test the cool-down procedure before the carrier arrives. On the other hand, if vaporized liquid nitrogen is to be used to cool down the LNG transfer system prior to introducing LNG then pre-cool-down testing can take place. This will be particularly useful if there are unique aspects to the cool-down path chosen or peculiarities with the location of the cool-down equipment with respect to the LNG transfer system. Does one wait until a ship loaded with high-value cargo is sitting at the berth before confirming that the piping can be properly cooled to commence unloading? Testing of the balance of plant may also be beneficial if vaporized liquid nitrogen is used in the final cool-down.

Starting process
Perform visual inspection (may require specialized equipment) of largebore piping to verify that no stagnant water is found. It is important to start the dry-out with as little water as possible in the system as this may greatly extend the time required to achieve dry-out. Pay special attention to dead legs and low points in the system as water is likely to accumulate at these points. Field confirm that the identified dew point sample points are readily accessible and, if not, viable alternatives are identified. Ensure an adequate number of quality dew point meters are available during dry-out. They should be portable with back-lit readouts and rated for temperatures and pressures of the gas samples expected. Ease of use and rapid response time are critical for large system dry-outs with multiple dew point sample points. If dry natural gas is to be used for dry-out, the instruments must also have proper electrical classification. Dry media delivery equipment should be thoroughly tested to confirm that it is capable of guaranteeing the desired flow at the required maximum dew point for extended periods of time. If the facilitys instrument air compressors are to be used, it is important that the system is fully commissioned and designed to operate at continuous, high capacity for the duration of the entire facility dry-out. Many of these steps should be taken into consideration during the design of the facility as this may reduce costs and schedule delays during initial and subsequent commissioning activities.

section or system to complete the dry-out procedure. Once the TDP is reached, the main vent point(s) is closed and a drying flow is established to piping laterals, equipment, instrument taps, etc. through various ambient vent locations. As TDP is reached at each of these locations the vent is closed such that the dry media is allowed to sit for a while i.e., soak. After a pre-determined period of time, the dew point is checked again at these various test points to confirm that the TDP has been maintained in the piping. If the testing shows dew point has not remained at the TDP or below, then water vapor has been absorbed into the drying media. The effected sub-system should be swept again and re-tested after soaking. Once the dew point testing indicates the pipe subsection has remained dry, the sub-system can be isolated until purge or cool-down commences. If after multiple soaks, the piping section fails to maintain the TDP, it can be assumed that there is standing water in the system and further action should be taken to resolve this. Dry-out activities during commissioning require detailed procedures and accurate record keeping to confirm the entire cryogenic piping system is properly dried and that wet media has not been pushed into previously dried sections. An inadequately dried system can significantly affect the remainder of the commissioning activities and subsequent operations.

Pre-cool-down test
For example, when purging LNG tanks, an effective way to proceed would be to introduce the purge gas via the bottom fill line at low pressures. This would slowly displace the total volume of air in the tank with little mixing. If there is to be a pre-cool-down test of any portion of the facility, the purge can be deferred until then as the test will also purge the system piping. A pre-cool-down test can help provide assurance that ensuing cool-down and start-up smoothly. It requires additional costs and adds to the schedule during the commissioning/ start-up phases, however its benefits typically far outweigh any negatives. The test involves cooling some or all of the cryogenic piping to near operating temperatures depending on the objectives. The objectives typically are categorized in three areas: 1. Confirmation of dry-out effectiveness: By cooling the cryogenic piping system to temperatures well below freezing, such as 40C/F, the valves in the system, procedures will advance

Why cool-down?
Unless specifically designed for such a condition, when a small flow of LNG at 260F [-160C] flows into a large diameter pipe that is at ambient temperature, such as a 36" LNG transfer line, the bottom of the line rapidly cools due to the heat transfer from the LNG, while the top of the pipe stays relatively warm for some time. Stainless steel contracts at a rate of about 3" per 100 feet [125 mm per 50m]. Such contraction results in the pipe bowing upwards (the bottom of the pipe shorter than the top of the pipe). Depending on the pipe support/restraint system, substantial stresses can be placed on the system or, if not restrained vertically, substantial upward movement. Although some large bore piping systems, such as the deck piping on many LNG carriers are designed for the trickle cool-down approach, the piping systems installed at LNG facilities typically are not. Unless specifically designed for trickle

Preferred cryogenic dry-out procedure

Dry-out of cryogenic piping is typically considered complete when the Target Dew Point (TDP) of -40C/F is reached. Although there exists a variety of dry-out approaches, experience suggests that the Sweep and Soak approach provides the

Assuming that LNG or LNG vapor is to be used for piping system cool-down, the piping systems need to be purged of air to avoid developing flammable concentrations. Nitrogen gas is the preferred medium for LNG terminal purging as carbon dioxide gas, the other predominant purge

particularly those with valve trunnions, can be stroked once cold to confirm that the valve is free to move, i.e., no ice formation. 2. Confirmation of pipe movement: In some cases pipe movement is predictable and not subject to concern. However, in other cases the movement of piping


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cooling with LNG, large-bore LNG piping needs to be cooled with a cryogenic vapor flow prior to the introduction of LNG to minimize pipe stresses. Additionally, LNG is sneaky fast, i.e., once introduced into warm piping, because of its low viscosity and high differential temperature with the base metal, LNG can move very quickly throughout the piping system riding on a vapor blanket as it vaporizes. This means that LNG can reach areas of the piping system long before volumetric calculations or even elevation would suggest. The larger the differential temperature the lower the likelihood that a cold vapor front will flow in advance of the LNG helping pre-cool the piping. As the vapor blanket collapses underneath the LNG there can be rapid bowing of the piping due to the large temperature differential between the bottom and top of the pipe. Cooling temperatures the LNG piping to the temperatures that are close to operating helps minimize potential of pipe bowing by reducing the top-to-bottom differential temperature, while collapsing the vapor blanket more quickly thereby promoting a cold vapor front moving down the piping as the piping is inventoried with LNG.

There is no one-size-fits-all technique for cooling down LNG piping. There are three main sources for cool-down vapor and the suitability of each source is dependent on the facility and the circumstances surrounding cool-down and commissioning. The three main sources are: 1. Vapor from the LNG tank(s): Depending on the piping design features, cold vapor can be sourced from LNG tanks during the tank cool-down or from tanks with existing liquid levels in the case of an expansion facility cool-down. In either case, a large volume of gas will be available for piping cool-down. A significant fraction of these volumes can also be recovered if pipeline compressors are installed and have already been commissioned in the facility. One of the drawbacks of this source of vapor is the relatively low pressure (if boil-off gas compressors are not used) and the instability of the temperature of the vapor. Lower pressures in the piping reduce residence time of the gas and consequently larger volumes are required to cool down the piping. In the case where the cold vapor is sourced from an LNG tank that is itself being cooled down, the initial erratic behavior of the vapor space in the tank will greatly affect the effectiveness of the vapor as a cool-down medium. In the other case where the cold vapor is sourced from an idle tank with an established liquid level, the vapor may not be cold enough to get all the facility piping to the target temperature. 2. Vapor from an LNG carrier: LNG carriers can supply cold vapor via boil-off gas or vaporized LNG. A full carrier will have or be able to generate a large enough volume of vapor to cool a facility. The carrier will be directly connected to the LNG transfer system hence the longest and largest piping system would be cooled first and thoroughly. One strategy that can be adopted would be to cool the transfer system and the LNG storage tanks then use the vapor from the tanks to cool-down over the remaining piping systems as previously described. A significant fraction of the vapors used in this method can be recovered if pipeline compressors are available. An issue that should be considered for this method is the pressure of the vapor flow through the piping system. Usually, vapor from a carrier is available at low pressures hence the cooling process would be inefficient as a greater volume would be needed to cool segments of piping. Heat leakage into the vapor via the uninsulated LNG unloading arms would also have to be accounted for. Additionally, since this method will require that the carrier be

berthed at the facility for an extended period of time the cool-down process is susceptible to interruptions in the case of bad sea conditions. 3. Vaporized Liquid Nitrogen (LIN): The most likely method of getting LIN into the cryogenic piping would be via trucks. Since the trucks are generally mobile there is an advantage in terms of accessibility to favorable injection points. Of the three sources discussed, the LIN method provides the coldest injection temperature i.e., -275F. This temperature can also be controlled to be cooler or warmer using the vaporizer installed on the truck. Using LIN also provides an advantage from the standpoint of venting during cool-down. With this advantage, cooldown of deadlegs in the system becomes less of a problem. However, there are some drawbacks to the use of LIN for cool-down. The major drawback is the logistics of utilizing LIN trucks. For example, for a world-scale LNG import terminal scores of trucks may be required. The facility would also need to have sufficient real estate around the injection point(s) for the pumper/vaporizer truck to set up. If nitrogen cooling is contemplated, motor capacities and/or operating conditions must be considered due to the higher molecular weight of nitrogen. Additionally, regardless of the medium chosen, the cool-down flow may be oncethrough or recirculated. LNG vapors, by themselves, rarely provide adequate cooling to achieve total cool-down. Consideration needs to be given to methods to further desuperheat these flows such that there is ample cooling driving force. Often, if so designed, vapor return blowers or BOG compressors can be used to provide a re-circulating capability of the cool-down vapors, taking into account the heat of compression. This may also make the use of LIN more attractive as the full cooling energy from the LIN can be used if the LIN is injected for desuperheating.

installed with spring straps, it is very unlikely that all the detectors installed will provide accurate readings and once insulation has been installed it becomes costly to replace the detectors. Therefore, although installing a large number of temperature detectors on the piping marginally increases construction costs, the improved indication of cool-down status can actually result in savings. It using is important to note or that temperature detectors installed on piping spring straps similar installation methods may accumulate some ice between the device and the piping during contraction and expansion. The method of installation should ensure that there is always a dry, continuous contact between the pipeline and metal skin temperature detectors to minimize inaccurate temperature readings.

LNG facility commissioning activities should not be attempted without properly written and reviewed procedures. Cool-down and purging procedures are explicitly mandated by section 14 of NFPA 59A (2006 ed.) and to a lesser extent by section 17 of EN-1473. Procedures should be finalized early i.e., several weeks before cool-down is scheduled to begin. The procedures should be written in a format that can be easily modified during the process. The cool-down procedure and the appended information should include: A pre-start valve checklist which indicates valve positions just before cool-down begins and a valve isolation philosophy, Other pre-start activities. For example, confirm inventories of cool-down media, confirm blinds have been removed, etc. An instrument operability checklist used by operators to determine the accuracy or functionality ofinstruments especially control valve and temperature detectors/monitors, A PSV checklist to confirm that PSVs have been set up for service, Details of the facilitys car seal program by clearly identifying steps where car seals are to be broken , A list of cryogenic piping supports (cold shoes) with the corresponding expected moving data (direction as well as length), Sketches of temporary piping installed as well as marked up P&IDs for different stages in the procedure, Narratives that help the user (operators, cool-down team) understand the ultimate goal each section of the procedure is meant to accomplish, and

Cool-down criteria
As stated before, the general rule is that cryogenic liquid piping of a certain size and larger be cooled down using cold vapor prior to the introduction of LNG. Another general rule is that cool-down is considered complete when all piping is cooled to or below a pre-determined temperature. Therefore, two questions need to be answered as preparations are made for cool-down: 1) What pipe size should cool-down in this manner be limited to? and, 2) What is the target temperature? The answer to these questions lies in the design of the terminal. What did the engineer set as the basis for various stress calculations? Unfortunately, far too often it is found that the engineer(s) did not specifically address these cool-down criteria in their analysis. Combine this with the fact that all too often the How large? and How cold? questions are asked very late in the planning process confusion is created. Unless other design specifications exist, practical experience suggests all LNG piping 8 inches [200 mm] and above should be cooled down to -200F [-130C] with cold vapor before introducing LNG.

Accurate temperature monitoring is important in conducting a smooth cooldown. It is prudent to be liberal with the amount of surface mounted (bottom and top) temperature detectors installed on large diameter piping. Regardless of the installation method i.e., whether welded to the pipe or

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Detailed should

step-by-step include

instructions cautionary

Finally it is imperative that all plant operations personnel involved in the commissioning chances of be trained error on the procedures created. This will reduce the human during commissioning.

There are a number of ways to commission and cool down LNG facilities. This paper has identified some key considerations that are prudent to take into account during this process. Successful LNG facility start-

up is based on well planned and executed programs. In the case of commissioning and final cool-down, adequate preparation and planning should begin as early as the design phase of the project. Osifo Akhuemonkhan and Roberto Ruiperez Vara work for CHIV International, a major player in LNG terminal projects. CHIV is a joint venture between MPR Associates, Inc. of Alexandria, Virginia, USA, and CHIV Corp. of Hanover, Maryland. MPR, founded in 1964, specializes in technical services for the development, design, construction and operation of power facilities and equipment for energy, industrial, and government clients. CHIV Corp., founded in 1991 had been providing LNG engineering and consulting services to a wide base of clients ranging from international LNG trading to LNG vehicle fleets until the formation of CHIV International. CHIV International builds on the Owners Engineer model applied by MPR in the power industry and transfers it to the LNG industry. The firms current LNG activities include providing the front-end engineering and design for six North American projects and one Central America LNG import venture. CHIV is also currently acting as the Regulatory Engineer for the State of Connecticut and LNG Technical Advisor for the Government of Jamaica. The firm also successfully supported the permitting process of three new import terminals, including Cameron LNG in Louisiana. Among other projects, CHIV was very actively involved in supporting the reactivation of the US LNG import terminal at Cove Point, Maryland. CHIV has also provided FEEDs for the US import projects at Downeast, Sparrows Point and Oregon LNG; all three are well into the FERC permitting process. In Asia, CHIV worked for Indias Petronet on the Dahej LNG terminal expansion and for World Energy Corp on a planned LNG liquefaction plant in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

(with contingencies). also

The procedures

statements about potential hazards/ mistakes applicable to each section of the procedure.

American Gas Association (AGA), Purging Principles and Practices (3rd edition, 2001)

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