Comprehensive review of current natural gas liquefaction processes on technical and economic performance

Jinrui Zhang*, Hans Meerman, René Benders, André Faaij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper provides a quantitative technical and economic overview of the status of natural-gas liquefaction (LNG) processes. Data is based on industrial practices in technical reports and optimization results in academic literature, which are harmonized to primary energy input and production cost. The LNG processes reviewed are classified into three categories: onshore large-scale, onshore small-scale and offshore. These categories each have a different optimization focus in academic literature. Besides minimizing energy consumption, the focus is also on: coproduction for large-scale; simplicity and ease of operation for small-scale; and low space requirement, safety and insensitivity to motion for offshore. The review on academic literature also indicated that optimization for lowest energy consumption may not lead to the lowest production cost. The review on technical reports shows that the mixed-refrigerant process dominates the LNG industry, but has competitions from the cascade process in large-scale applications and from the expander-based process in small-scale and offshore applications. This study also found that there is a potential improvement in adopting new optimization algorithms for efficiently solving complex optimization problems. The technical performance overview shows that the primary energy input for large-scale processes (0.031–0.102 GJ/GJ LNG) is lower than for small-scale processes (0.049–0.362 GJ/GJ LNG). However, the primary energy input for identical processes do not necessarily decrease with increasing capacity and the performance of major equipment shows low correlation with scale. The economic performance overview shows specific capital costs varying significantly from 124 to 2255 $/TPA LNG. The variation could be, among others, caused by the different complexities of the facility and different local circumstances. Production cost, excluding feed costs, varies between 0.69 and 4.10 $/GJ LNG, with capital costs being the dominant contributor. The feed cost itself could be 1.51–4.01 $/GJ LNG, depending on the location. Lastly, the quantitative harmonization results on technical and economic performance in this study can function as a baseline for the purpose of comparison.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114736
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Thermal Engineering
Early online date30-Nov-2019
Publication statusPublished - 5-Feb-2020


  • Energy efficiency
  • Harmonization
  • LNG
  • OPEX
  • Optimization

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