The LNG breakthrough: the benefits (episode 2)

The first investments in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) technologies date back to the 1970s, but it is only in the last decade that a real globalisation of the gas market was triggered due to this possibility of affordable sea transportation.


LNG actually offers clear benefits in terms of safety and flexibility. The gas market is no longer tied to the continuity and operation of fixed pipeline networks and recompression stations, which often cross countries and regions and come with potential geographic and political complexities, but, it becomes more fluid and dynamic through the movement by sea, through the use of ships. And, transport costs become cheaper on longer routes, offering higher marketing opportunities for producing countries and supply opportunities for consuming countries.

The benefits of LNG

The technology of liquefaction of natural gas, which takes place by bringing it to temperatures lower than -161.4 °C, makes it possible to reduce the specific volume of the gas by about 600 times compared to standard conditions, allowing for competitive costs for storage and transport in considerably smaller spaces. LNG is transported by sea by means of LNG carriers, where the temperature in the liquid phase at pressure is close to atmospheric, but at cryogenic temperatures.

The flexibility offered by ship transport also makes it possible to reach remote areas by intercepting price variations between different markets.

The natural gas liquefaction infrastructure

Coral-Sul FLNG

LNG: energy over long distances

Based on the latest IEA report from 2023, the top four of the top five net importing countries are all Asian: in 2020 2022, Japan imported 94.8 billion cubic metres, followed by China with 85.2, while South Korea purchased 61.5 billion cubic metres. In fourth place is France, with 32.2, followed by Taiwan with 26.7. In this ranking of the LNG import/export balance, India contributes 26.3 billion cubic metres to meet the needs of its 1.4 billion inhabitants, while Italy ranks twelfth with 9.9.


For all of them, especially China and India, a further increase in demand is expected generated by strong technological and demographic growth.


In the United States, the shale gas revolution, i.e. the extraction of natural gas from particular types of rock, known as shale, has boosted domestic production and caused LNG imports to plummet, to the point of reversing the trend, making the US the leading exporter with 157.9 billion cubic metres (Gm3) sold. After the US, the largest gas producing countries that equipped themselves with LNG technologies in 2022 were Australia (with exports of 110.8 Gm3), Russia (43.6), Malaysia (32.8) and Nigeria (18.8). In contrast, Mozambique, Tanzania and Canada have ambitious development plans with the goal of becoming LNG exporters. Australia now has the largest number of LNG plants under construction.

The author: Luca Longo

An industrial chemist specialising in theoretical chemistry. He was a researcher for 30 years before moving into science communication at Eni.

The LNG breakthrough: towards Liquefied Natural Gas (episode 1)

The first in-depth feature of 'The LNG breakthrough', an original three-part format dedicated to the evolution of natural gas, a key vector for the energy transition.

The LNG breakthrough: technologies (episode 3)

The third in-depth feature of 'The LNG breakthrough', an original three-part format dedicated to the evolution of natural gas, a key vector for the energy transition.

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