Safety procedures required by LNG operations

  • 27/09/2022
  • 10 minutes

When we talk about the O&G international trade, the conversation inevitably shifts towards oil rigs and ships. However, the use of gas tankers as seen in the transportation of LNG is one of the routines of the sector that has seen a significant development in the last few years.

You can also listen to this article in the audio version.

This subject thus deserves a special article, in which we are going to try and breakdown this type of operation. To do so, we enlisted a team of experts: Nathália de Faria Almeida, operations supervisor (Aracaju); Wagner Moura, Merchant Navy Officer and coordination of port operations at CELSE and Lucas Buranelli, LNG terminal operations manager.

Are you interest? Then keep reading to know more about how this transportation and its safety procedures are taking place. Good reading!

How is LNG transported?

Before starting this discussion, it is important to define what LNG is and how it works in a maritime chartering scenario. LNG stands for Liquefied Natural Gas, a technology that exists for more than 40 years in the market, despite the fact it became popular just recently.

This technology is intended to reduce the temperature of natural gas, storing it at a temperature of -160 ºC, until it stabilizes in its liquid state. “Liquefied natural gas is 600 times more compact than natural gas in its gaseous state, making transportation even more efficient. Thus, it is possible to transport mass volumes, and consequently, more energy in appropriate cargo ships, the so-called LNGC, (Liquefied Natural Gas Carrier), also known as Metaneiros (Methane Carriers) in Brazil, explains Lucas.

In addition to the efficiency in transportation, LNG is also considered by Wagner as a safer transportation model: “LNG has been safely loaded and transported via ships for over four decades. Gas is not loaded pressurized, thus, in case of failure of the containment system, LNG would return to the gaseous state and dissipate”.

It is a safe and efficient method to transport natural gas, making its trading more relevant and attractive for players around the globe, and its operation is already consolidated in Brazilian terminals.

What are the required safety procedures?

Any port operation already requires, by definition, strict safety terms, and they also apply to handling, transfer and transportation of LNG.

As explained by Lucas, stability and temperature of liquefied gas ensures some safety characteristics, such as being less prone to fires and explosions. But -160 ºC is a considerable value that has its fair share of risks. “LNG at this temperature is highly harmful to skin, steel and plastic, would be instantaneously frozen upon direct contact with the cryogenic liquid and would not resist”.

Still according to him, it was required to regulate the use of appropriate materials such as stainless steel used in tanks on board LNGC’s — a material capable of keeping its integrity when exposed to such conditions. These regulations, among others, are part of the IGC (International Gas Code).

Nathália, who just like Wagner joins similar operations in Sergipe, at CELSE’s LNG Terminal, explains that “LNG reaches FSRU GOLAR NANOOK by means of metaneiros and is then transferred to a FSRU (Floating Storage Regasification Unit) following an operation known as ship-to-ship”. According to the expert, the ship types used have special tanks, sometimes spherical in shape, double membrane tanks or prismatic tanks.

The biggest safety effort lies in the construction of vessels and monitoring of conditions during transportation. “The whole ship is equipped with systems monitoring the existence of fire, gas leak and monitoring of temperature, due to safety reasons”, says Nathália.

Why is training important?

It is obvious that the compliance with safety standards and legal regulations are only met in high complexity operations when there appropriate planning and training. These are the factors currently being targeted by investments from companies engaged in shipping agency, port towage, ports and owners of gas tankers companies.

The Supervisor of Tugboat Operations details how it is done in Aracaju: “Wilson Sons works in connection with CELSE in the execution of emergency drills. This initiative is intended to align communication and actions between involved parties and ensure that, in a real emergency situation, all crew and personnel according to a specific procedure and the relevant Operational Response Plans”.

The result of so much logic, structural and operational concern in the transportation of liquefied gas is clear. “There is no record of accidents involving LNG on board ships and of operations causing the loss of life”, assures Wagner.

Our unit of Tugboats, in addition of having equipment and its own fleet, in terms of design and static pull (bollard pull), in compliance with the configuration demanded by the consenting authorities, clients and experts, uses its own simulator installed in its Improvement Center (CAMWS), based in Guarujá. There, the company tests maneuvers and conditions, and in particular, prepares its crew for ship-to-ship operations. It concerns a differential that considerably increases the operational safety related to the operational scope of tugboats in maneuvers.

The three experts agree that is concerns a work that starts with the study of laws and standards, requires a good ship construction and operation project and is constantly reviewed and adjusted.

How can Wilson Sons help?

For a sector that heavily depends on efficiency and strictness when performing operation steps, it is essential that people and companies involved are in line and focused on ensuring the success of the transportation. And that is why a shipping agency is necessary in finding the right players.

And if we are dealing with a product for which the focus on safety makes the whole difference in the operation, we must talk about Wilson Sons. After all, this concern is one of the major differentials of the company.

“It is a daily effort of our part”, states Nathália. “The frequency with which we performs emergency drills aids in the development of a safety culture”, she adds.

She finishes that this caution offers the opportunity of keeping all professionals prepared during an eventual incident or accident. Therefore, it is possible to reduce response thanks to the increase action capacity by the crew.

As you can see, in  routine such as the one of LNG transportation, standards and procedures adopted not only contribute to the protection of lives and goods in ports and ships but also to the continuous search for methods deemed more efficient and profitable when developing the economy and infrastructure of the country.

So, are you enjoying our content? Have you found the answers you seek about the topic? If you want to know more about international trade and shipping agency, please take a look around and check some of our other articles!