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Simplifying the material specification

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Demand for LNG continues to grow as the world transitions to cleaner energy systems. As a result, new terminals and expansions of existing terminals have been planned and announced to meet this increased demand. Facility designers, engineers and contractors face a common set of challenges based on the facility location, layout and temperatures at which it operates.

This article will look at eight common challenges faced when insulating an LNG facility and how one insulating material – cellular glass – helps engineers and facility managers overcome these challenges while improving facility safety, reducing maintenance and labour, and improving the workplace environment.

Thermal performance

LNG facilities require insulation systems to address thermal performance at extreme temperatures. Primary process piping and equipment throughout these sites can operate at -165°C (-265°F), which means reliable and long-lasting insulation is needed to keep pipes and storage tanks at temperature without warping.

When insulation is subject to extreme temperatures, there can be a rate of thermal expansion or contraction. Organic-based insulations tend to contract more in cold and cryogenic applications than insulation types that are non-organic. Some organic materials, such as plastic foams, can have coefficients that are five to ten times larger than those presented by metal materials. This difference can lead to open joints and allow for unwanted heat gain, which reduces the overall thermal efficiency of the system. The movement may also allow entry points for moisture or water vapour.

However, using FOAMGLAS® cellular glass insulation systems, which are designed to function in temperatures ranging from -268°C to 482°C (-450°F to 900°F), provides thermal contraction complementary to that seen with carbon or stainless steel and concrete. Use of cellular glass insulation in situations where extreme temperatures occur may help reduce the number of contraction joints, eliminate the need for secondary (or multiple) vapour barriers, protect joint seals, and keep moisture from entering an insulated system during temperature cycling.

Moisture protection – vapour drive

Despite the cold temperature of the pipes, LNG facilities may face a particular challenge from moisture as many are situated in locations with warm and/or humid climates. Pipes or vessels may function at temperatures reaching down to -165°C (-265°F), and can be located in areas where the ambient temperature remains 32°C (90°F) or above with 90% humidity. As moisture seeks to move from hot to cold conditions, the combination of...

Written by Brandon Stambaugh, Owens Corning, USA.

This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering magazine. To read the full article, sign in here or register for a free trial subscription.

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