Liquefied Natural Gas Safety

LNG Tanker arriving in port

LNG is natural gas that has been refrigerated into a cryogenic liquid so that it can be shipped long distances in carriers. Once an LNG carrier reaches a receiving terminal, the LNG is unloaded and stored in large tanks until it is revaporized and piped into the natural gas distribution network. LNG is a hazardous liquid, because it is cryogenic and, as natural gas, it is combustible.

LNG hazards result from three of its properties: cryogenic temperatures, dispersion characteristics, and flammability characteristics. The extremely cold LNG can directly cause injury or damage. A vapor cloud, formed by an LNG spill, could drift downwind into populated areas. It can ignite if the concentration of natural gas is between five and 15 percent in air and it encounters an ignition source. An LNG fire gives off a tremendous amount of heat.

A large array of laws, regulations, standards, and guidelines are currently in place to prevent and lessen the consequences of LNG releases. These requirements affect LNG facilities' design, construction, operation, and maintenance.

To address terrorist risk, the Ship and Port Facility Security Code was adopted in 2003 by the member countries of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), an agency of the United Nations responsible for maritime matters concerning ship safety. This code requires both ships and ports to conduct vulnerability assessments and to develop security plans. To heighten security of LNG facilities at American seaports, Congress passed the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, which requires all ports to have federally-approved security plans. Detailed security assessments of LNG facilities and vessels are also required.

The Department of Transportation (DOT), Research and Special Programs Administration, issues and enforces federal safety standards for land-based LNG facilities, although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can impose more stringent safety requirements than DOT's when warranted. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) issues and enforces regulations for waterfront facilities handling LNG.

All of these federal agencies oversee all land and sea-based LNG operations, with some overlapping authorities and some new responsibilities. The recent reactivation of LNG facilities on the East Coast and in the Gulf Coast and permitting of new facilities, have resulted in new methodologies (risk-based decision making) and processes (security workshops, scoping meetings) to assess and communicate safety risk to the public.


Explosions and Fires

Spills and Leaks

Safety Studies