Digital Optimization of Floating LNG Plants

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With global demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) at near-peak levels – Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) sees global LNG demand growing to 305MMtpa in 2018 and 490MMtpa by 2030 – energy companies are investing in floating LNG (FLNG) in a bid to meet demand, but at reduced cost.

A flexible midstream asset, FLNG avoids the costly pipeline infrastructure typically required to move gas onshore. The vessel typically offers processing equipment to accommodate a variety of gas conditioning environments, including storage, enabling O&G companies to generate more profits from offshore LNG reserves. FLNG is moveable, allowing it to evade extreme weather, for example, and can be relocated and reused.

Not surprisingly, technology is playing an important role in the design and operation of these floating assets. Digitalization in the form of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and digital twins have the potential to reduce costs, improve safety and optimize overall operations for these floating plants.

Optimizing energy generation

In the initial design phase for an LNG ship, engineering, procurement and contracting (EPC) companies can develop a digital replica of the FLNG plant – often referred to as a digital twin – to assess design integrity and identify any constraints. The digital twin is an exact 3D model and can be used to simulate various conditions to ascertain weaknesses or design flaws before construction even begins.

With energy efficiency and sustainability a top consideration, design engineers must explore several factors with regard to a ship’s operations. Managing fuel consumption is one of the most critical factors for any ship and must be integrated in the early stage of the design. To create the most efficient process, the design must optimize fuel consumption so the output remains steady while reducing the energy consumed. In other words, doing the same with less.

Motors represent the bulk of the electric load on a ship. The electrical system on this type of ship is complex, often including several large motors and generators. Generator sizing optimization has the most significant impact on reducing fuel consumption. To reduce consumption, the power system engineer and designer must determine the best electrical solution to meet the motor-starting energy demand while using the smallest footprint, size and weight.

In a recent example, generation optimization was undertaken for two LNG carrier ships to help them achieve a 20 percent reduction in OPEX. The complexity of these systems required the development of rigorous models to allow transient and stability analyses accurately and reliably. Using digital asset modeling technology, the designers created detailed simulations of the electrical installation including the generators, the motors and the starting context.

The resulting solution and generation optimization was made possible through the use of rigorous modeling and testing. A dynamic model of the electrical network was developed to ensure its stability and safety in operation.

Optimizing operations and maintenance

With the addition of real-time data inputs, a digital twin model created in the design phase can be used by FLNG operators to optimize operations and maintenance. Integrating historic and actual operational data with the digital twin allows operators to benchmark performance and make predictions about future operations. This allows plant operators to identify areas for efficiency improvements throughout the plant’s lifecycle.

The same real-time data can be leveraged for predictive maintenance. When used with predictive analytics, operators can identify potential problems before they happen, resulting in safe, more efficient and profitable operations. In fact, using real-time data to predict and prevent breakdowns can reduce downtime by 50 percent.

Optimizing floating LNG for the future

LNG currently accounts for 12 percent of all gas demand.[i] Floating LNG will offer more cost-efficient options for developing nations that lack the energy infrastructure needed to support demand. To support both growth and sustainability in this emerging market, O&G companies must optimize design and operations of these floating plants.

Digital twin modeling and simulation technologies used throughout the plant lifecycle – from design through operations and optimization – allow FLNG vessels to achieve overall efficiency, safer operations and reduced downtime, while reducing cost for operators and owners, and increasing the life of the plant.

To learn more about how digital twins and other new technology trends are driving operational efficiency for emerging O&G markets, visit Schneider Electric at booth #535 at the World Gas Conference in Washington, D.C., June 25-29, 2018.

[i] Clemente, Jude, JTC Energy Research Associates, LLC. “The Rapidly Expanding Global Liquefied Natural Gas Market,” July 2017

Digital Optimization of Floating LNG Plants

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