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Volume 10 Number 5 - May 2005

A
s the need for increased supplies of natural gas
begins to intensify, so too does the battle to reduce
the cost of processing the large natural gas reserves
in remote areas of the world. Many see liquefied natural gas
(LNG) as a significant player in this arena, as the design of
facilities and the equipment within them has made major
productivity and cost leaps in the last few years.
For decades, LNG plant designers were concerned first
and foremost with ensuring safety and reliability throughout
the processing cycle. And because facilities were so large in
size and scope, maintaining design uniformity from one
plant to the next remained standard practice.
Today, however, plant owners and operators face ever
increasing external costs that squeeze profitability.
Identifying efficient products and processes has conse-
quently become a critically important piece of the puzzle. As
technological innovation continues unabated, an industry
once reluctant to embrace change has opened its arms to it.
Consequently, the reduced cost of LNG per tonne for many
processors has been dramatic.
Most modern day engineers endeavour to lower costs in
three basic ways:
They explore and develop different processes by which
LNG can be produced.
They design larger plants using larger, more powerful
compression equipment.
They integrate advanced heat exchanger and insulated
piping technologies into system designs.
The refrigeration cycle requires a great deal of energy and
associated costs for LNG manufacturing. Given advances in
the technology and design of heat exchangers, plant owners
and operators are no longer limited to a one system fits all
approach. Additionally, products such as vacuum insulated
pipe (VIP) have gained a foothold in a growing number of
LNG processing facilities, thanks to their significant advan-
tage over traditional mechanically insulated pipe (MIP).
Therefore, there is no better time to evaluate the present
processing cycle and equipment, with an eye on its cost of
acquisition and daily operation; performance and efficiency;
processing capacity; quality and reliability; and impact on
environmental and energy efficiency requirements.
Heat exchanger types and uses
Heat exchanger technology in LNG plants ranges from shell
and tube to spiral wound, to a wide variety of compact heat
exchangers. In an effort to innovate and reduce cost of LNG
production, many LNG applications are now utilising com-
pact heat exchangers with highly effective heat transfer per-
formance, resulting in reduced horsepower and increased
plant output vs. shell and tube or spiral wound exchangers.
Reprinted from HYDROCARBON ENGINEERING MAY 2005
Hot technology for
lower cost LNG
Dan Markussen, Chart Industries, USA, outlines how heat exchanger technologies and
vacuum-insulated pipe offer advantages that can lower the overall cost of producing LNG.
Figure 1. Competitive forces in the production of
LNG are forcing plant owner/operators to seek
innovative ways to lower costs.
Figure 2. The compact exchanger performance of
brazed aluminum heat exchangers allows
owner/operators of LNG facilities to lower the cost
per tonne of LNG produced.
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Reprinted from HYDROCARBON ENGINEERING MAY 2005
Brazed aluminum heat exchangers (BAHXs) are highly
efficient, compact heat transfer devices offering advantages
over shell and tube. Produced by vacuum brazing, BAHXs
are used for a wide range of cryogenic and non-cryogenic
applications, including LNG and industrial gas production,
refinery and petrochemical processing, and hydrogen and
helium liquefaction. BAHXs are a well established technol-
ogy, and have been produced by Chart for 55 years.
BAHXs offer LNG processors the benefits of compact
design (typically 20% of the size of comparable perfor-
mance carbon or stainless steel shell and tube exchangers),
close temperature approaches (1 C/2 F), flow options, and
a unique ability to exchange heat with multiple streams (10
or more process streams are possible). Together, these
advantages can lower installation and operating costs, and
minimise engineering, insulation, support systems, testing,
documentation, transportation and site arrangements.
BAHXs also enable plant managers to reduce liquid inven-
tory and improve plant safety.
Related to BAHXs, Core-in-Kettle

exchangers utilise a
brazed aluminum plate fin exchanger located within a large
cylindrical kettle. The aluminum plate fin exchanger
replaces the traditional tube bundle in a new or existing shell
and tube unit, typically one fifth of the weight of its shell and
tube counterpart. The brazed aluminum construction also
eliminates mechanical joints and leakage potential.
Core-in-Kettle exchangers can reduce installation and
operating costs significantly. They use less insulation, and
require less liquid inventory and horsepower than shell and
tube exchangers. They can also improve the efficiency and
economy of chillers, vapourisers, reboilers and con-
densers. In fact, the design is so efficient that tight
approach temperatures down to 2 F (1 C) can be used,
thereby increasing plant capacity and reducing horsepower
requirements.
It is important to consider application limits for each of the
technologies described. BAHXs are limited to clean fluids typ-
ical of hydrocarbon processing. Furthermore, fluids must not
be corrosive to aluminum. There are exceptions, however, for
trace amounts of mercury. Brazed aluminum equipment from
a recognised industry leader in technology innovation (such as
Chart Industries) is designed with mercury tolerance in mind.
Although mercury is highly corrosive to some alloys of alu-
minum, an optional proprietary mercury tolerant design can be
provided, allowing the exchanger to operate with mercury pre-
sent in the process fluid while the equipment resists corrosion.
To further take advantage of the increased performance
of compact heat exchangers, LNG plant designers are also
considering the use of compact welded plate heat exchang-
ers. Comprised of stacked, welded steel plates, and con-
tained within the bounds of
bolted pressure plates,
welded plate heat
exchangers can be utilised
in services outside the tem-
perature limitations for
brazed aluminum exchang-
ers. The steel construction
of the welded plate
exchanger allows Chart
Industries to couple its
expertise in the cryogenic
processing industry with
heat exchanger design,
and extend its competen-
cies to warm applications
and applications with large
Figure 3. Core-in-Kettles provide superior heat
transfer performance for brazed aluminum heat
exchangerS compared to traditional shell and tube
applications.
Figure 5. Advancements in vacuum insulated pipe (VIP) technology have allowed
producers of LNG to take advantage of its lower construction costs and beneficial
insulating value.
Figure 4. Heat exchanger diagram.
temperature differentials. LNG vapourisation is one applica-
tion that could utilise the novel approach of using compact
heat exchangers in LNG receiving terminals.
New piping technologies
The transfer of LNG demands piping that is at once afford-
able and reliable. For decades, MIP stood as the industry
standard by which cryogenic liquids could be transferred for
multiple use. Recently, however, vacuum insulated pipe
(VIP) has emerged as a preferable alternative in many
areas, including LNG production, with clear advantages.
VIP was developed in the early 1950s as a means of
transferring fluids within a hydrogen liquefier system. Since
that time, it has been used by industrial gas producers/sup-
pliers, national laboratories, aerospace companies, the
National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), food
processing operations, and the entertainment industry, to
transfer cryogenic fluids.
Laminar radiation shielded VIP is generally available in
rigid and flexible styles, with inner line diameters ranging
from 3/8 - 26 in. Its stainless steel construction, TIG welding,
mass spectrometer leak checking and extensive vacuum
retention testing helps to ensure reliable, maintenance free
service. This decreases the need for field welding, and
results in lower total cost and faster deployment.
The recent introduction of VIP for LNG transfer service
is a significant development for the industry. VIP has many
uses for LNG applications, including:
LNG tank riser. The long distance between the ground
and the top of a tank requires the strong support VIP
provides. This pipe within a pipe requires fewer sup-
ports, and the prefabrication makes installation faster
and easier.
Terminal ship jetty marker. High reliability and low main-
tenance make VIP ideal for underwater applications
such as this.
Storage tank to vapouriser piping. VIP minimises bi-
phase flow, increasing useful product flow and
vapouriser pump life.
Overall, VIP affords LNG plant owners and operators a
lower total cost than MIP. Consequently, system owners and
operators can avoid high installation labour costs, ongoing
maintenance, liquid losses and lost revenue due to longer
deployment times that are inherent in MIP installations.
Although VIP can represent slightly higher initial equipment
expenditure, significant savings are ultimately achieved
through reduced installation labour cost, minimal mainte-
nance, and less product loss over the life of the equipment.
Conclusion
As the drive to realise greater efficiencies and economies in the
LNG production process continues, technologies such as
brazed aluminum heat exchangers, Core-in-Kettle exchangers,
welded plate heat exchangers and vacuum insulated pipe, will
continue to grow in popularity. BAHXs clearly outperform their
shell-and-tube counterparts in areas of efficiency, innovation
and overall performance. Core-in-Kettle designs supplement
these benefits by offering added flexibility in replacing or retro-
fitting traditional shell and tube units. Welded plate heat
exchangers extend the benefits provided by BAHXs to applica-
tions outside of temperature limitations. Finally, VIP offers bet-
ter reliability and lower long term lifecycle costs than traditional
MIP. LNG operators that seek innovative ways to enhance prof-
itability and improve plant performance should consider lever-
aging these technologies to lower the cost per tonne of LNG
while expanding production capacity. _____________________
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