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Most liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants operate in warm climates, close to the source of easily-accessible gas. In Russia’s subarctic far east, Shell has harnessed the cold conditions – and developed a more energy-efficient LNG process.

For decades Shell has been shipping natural gas to distant markets by cooling it to a liquid and shrinking its volume 600 times. This opens up energy resources in remote locations where laying pipelines would be impractical, or too costly.

LNG plants are usually built in warmer regions. Often this is where natural gas resources are easy to access. Shell has developed a new approach called the double mixed refrigerant (DMR) process. This helps produce LNG more efficiently and increases the potential for developing natural gas resources in colder, more remote locations.

The big freeze

Conventionally, a turbine powers equipment that acts like a giant refrigerator to cool the natural gas in two steps. First, a single coolant chills the natural gas to around -35°C (-31°F). Second, a mix of coolants that can operate at lower temperatures takes the natural gas down to -162°C (-260°F).

But at the Sakhalin-2 LNG plant in Russia’s far east, where Shell is a partner, temperatures vary from 34°C (93°F) in summer to -35°C (-31°F) in winter. To take advantage of this wide range in temperature, a different mix of coolants is introduced in the process to replace the single coolant. This new mix chills the natural gas more effectively, saving energy.

The cold also helps the turbines work more efficiently and produce more power. The combination of the DMR process, the winter cold and using new equipment makes the Sakhalin-2 plant around a third more energy efficient than an average LNG plant.

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Cooling natural gas to -162°C to turn it into liquid for shipping to overseas markets.
One of the world's largest integrated, export oriented oil and gas projects.