A day in the life….at Fields Point LNG
There’s been a lot of talk recently about our proposal to add liquefaction technology to our LNG facility at Fields Point in Providence, RI. We had a chance to meet up with a few of the supervisors who work there this month for a tour to learn more about it.
Here’s Frank, Kathy, and Steve – three of National Grid’s finest. Kathy Sullivan, Director of Rhode Island LNG Operations, and Steve Donnelly, LNG Operator, have over 20 years of experience in the gas industry and Frank Williams, also an LNG Operator, has been with us for 5 years after working for a propane company. They’re part of our team of highly qualified and experienced professionals who work at the site and keep things running smoothly.
LNG (liquefied natural gas) is stored in the massive tanks that you’ve likely seen in your communities – like the painted one that we own and operate in Dorchester, Mass. LNG plays an important role in helping us to meet the gas demands of our customers on peak days.
When it’s cold out and we know our customers will be turning up their thermostats, LNG keeps the gas flowing by maintaining the appropriate level of gas supply in our distribution system. It’s similar to the water pressure in a home – when you have the shower, washing machine and outdoor sprinklers running at the same time, the water pressure in your home drops. Something similar happens when a lot of customers are using natural gas on a cold day, so we use LNG to keep the pressure stable, ensuring everyone gets the energy that they need. Here’s what the storage tank at Fields Point looks like – it’s the largest LNG tank in our service territory, storing 2 billion cubic feet (BcF) of LNG:
The LNG stored in this tank will eventually create 600x its volume in natural gas, so you can see why our ability to store it is important for meeting our customers’ needs on those winter days.
Typically, LNG is trucked to Fields Point after it’s been unloaded from tanker ships that import it to our region from places like Trinidad and Tobago. Trucks delivering LNG to the facility use transfer stations, like this one, which are equipped with all the necessary equipment to properly unload LNG into the main tank.
Trucks can arrive up to 20 times a day to get the tank filled in time for the peak season which starts on Nov. 1. It’s a process we’ve got down to a science, but it’s not always the most reliable or economic way to do things. It means we’re dependent on a foreign supply of the fuel that can lead to price fluctuations – or even shortages – based on what’s happening in the market.
The liquefaction technology that we’ll add at Fields Point will bring greater reliability to the system, and we’ll have more control over when we fill the tank (like in the summer when gas prices are cheaper).
Although it will be a new addition to this site, National Grid has a lot of experience operating the technology because we already do it on Long Island.
Here’s what the liquefaction technology looks like at our Holtsville, NY location, which we’ve been operating since 1971:
The process of liquefaction involves drawing gas from our distribution system to our facilities and cooling it to its liquid state for storage. It’s kept at -260 degrees F (that’s cold!) in the tank to keep it in this liquid state. We do the opposite to the LNG when we’re ready to tap into the supply– we heat it up to vaporize it – before pumping it out into the system for our customers.
The technology on site at Holtsville is the same kind that we’ll build at Fields Point called a “closed loop nitrogen system.” We compress and expand nitrogen in heat exchangers to get the gas to the right temperature for liquefaction (it’s the same principle as an air conditioner or refrigerator, just on a very large scale).This process also won’t be adding emissions to the environment since we’re recirculating the gas and liquid within the system without releasing anything into the air.
Aside from the new technology, it will be business as usual at the site for the most part – we’re not expanding the tank itself, and it will be built on land we already own at Fields Point, so we’re not increasing the footprint of the site. Here’s a map of where it will go:
Kathy explained that the facility is highly regulated by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which conducts inspections at least annually.
The Fields Point facility plays an important role in our New England energy strategy – and bringing liquefaction to the site is a major part of meeting our goals to bring more affordable energy to the region.
To learn more, visit the project’s website