Transporting Gas Cylinders: How LPG is Transported - LPG Gas Transportation - LPG Transport
LPG is liquefied under modest pressure and then stored and transported in various size vessels. LPG is transported in bulk tanks or LPG gas cylinders. The transported LPG can be propane, butane or a mixture of the two. LPG transport is commonly done by ship, rail, pipeline, truck and other smaller vehicles.
LPG gas transportation starts with the separation of the LPG from raw natural gas or crude oil. The LPG is further segregated and then marketed as either propane, butane or an LPG gas mixture of the constituents. LPG is used in many applications with the most common being home heating, cooking and hot water.
LPG – Liquefied Petroleum Gas – is a common alternative fuel for vehicles, replacing petrol or diesel. LPG for transport is also called Autogas and is either propane or a propane-butane mix. LPG comes from natural gas processing and crude oil refining.
LPG transport and storage is done with LPG gas cylinders or larger vessels. Transporting gas cylinders is done by truck or LPG transport in bulk is done with tankers. In contrast, natural gas is conveyed to homes via pipelines for use in heating, cooking and hot water.
Crude oil is transported from the producing wells to the oil refineries by pipeline or tanker. Propane and butane are products of crude oil refining. LPG is transported to storage and distribution by large LPG carriers, rail, or pipelines.
LPG exists as either a gas (vapour) or as a liquid, when it is under a modest amount of pressure in gas bottles, cylinders, tanks and larger LPG storage vessels.
Given that gaseous LPG has a volume 270x that of liquid LPG, it is almost always transported in its more compact liquid state.
LPG (propane) can be transported in a number of ways, including by ship, rail, tanker trucks, intermodal tanks, cylinder trucks, pipelines and local gas reticulation systems.
Transporting gas cylinders is typically done by truck.
There are also some much more basic ways – LPG mule train anyone?
We’ll explore all of these and discuss the details of each…
Bulk Transport by Ship
LPG is transported across entire oceans in large tankers, typically called gas carriers. The most common for transoceanic trips are Very Large Gas Carriers – VLGCs.
The VLGC class ships carry up to about 43,000 tonnes (84,000m3) of LPG and are usually about 230m in length.
VLGCs are fully refrigerated.
The LPG is kept at approximately -48°C, which is below the boiling point of LPG (propane), which is -42°C.
This means that there is no vapour pressure build up, remaining at about 1 atmosphere of pressure.
The structure of the ship only needs to deal with the weight of the LPG and not any extra pressure.
There are about 200 VLGCs in service around the world.
Transported in Intermodal ISO Tank Containers
ISO tank containers are LPG storage vessels mounted within a standardised framework. Capacity of the 6m ISO LPG tank is 24,000-25,000 litres or around 12 tonnes of LPG.
The standardised framework is built to ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) standards, just like a standard (closed steel box) shipping container.
Typical LPG ISO tank sizing is 6.05m (20ft) long, 2.4m wide and 2.55m high, although other sizes also exist, including 12.2m (40ft) versions.
A tank container is built to the ISO standards to be “intermodal”, making it suitable for different modes of transportation and stackable.
These containers can be used for transport by ship, rail or truck, being transferred between them without unloading/reloading the LPG cargo.
Transported by Rail in Bulk and ISO Tanks
Tanker rail cars are used to move large quantities of LPG in bulk. These tankers can be anywhere from 65,000 to 127,000 litres in capacity, which is about 65 tonnes of LPG.
They are approximately 19m long and 5m high.
The limitation on bulk rail transport is that you need a loading/unloading terminal at each end.
For that reason, the use of bulk rail is typically limited to specific applications, such as transporting LPG from well sites to terminals.
However, rail can also be used to transport ISO tank containers.
Rail would be used for this, in lieu of truck transport, when the distances are long enough to justify the economics.
Pipeline Transport of LPG
LPG pipelines are typically employed between gas fields and storage terminals.
The prohibitive expense involved in building pipelines makes them rare.
Reticulated Gas Systems
There are some communities or building estates that have LPG reticulation systems. The pipes to the homes are supplied from a central storage tank or tanks. Each home is equipped with a meter, similar to natural gas meters.
Transported by Road Tankers
Large quantities of LPG are frequently moved between terminals and depots via large road tankers and B-doubles. LPG road trains, with three trailers, are also occasionally used.
An LPG B-double is made up of a prime mover which pulls two large tank trailers, which are linked by a fifth wheel and can be up to 26m long.
An LPG road tanker is the same arrangement, but the prime mover is only pulling a single large tank trailer.
A single road tanker holds 19 to 23 tonnes.
Road tankers are also used for direct deliveries to high volume consumers, like petrol stations and large industrial users.
Transport by Local Bobtail Tankers
Local bulk deliveries, to end users, are done with bobtail tankers. Also known as a rigid tanker, the LPG vessel is attached to the same frame as the prime mover. Sizes vary quite a bit, from small 4 tonne tankers to larger 12 tonne versions.
Unlike the road tankers, bobtail tankers are not articulated, so there is no trailer involved.
The gas is dispensed using a pump and hose reel arrangement.
The use of local tankers allows for automatically scheduled deliveries without waiting for the customer to empty a cylinder completely, as is the case with exchange.
This eliminates the need to check cylinders or call for deliveries.
Transporting Gas Cylinders
Transporting gas cylinders is almost always done by truck. This includes small BBQ gas bottles, forklift gas bottles and 45kg gas bottles for homes and businesses.
Lower volume users are supplied with gas bottles on an exchange basis.
The driver delivers full cylinders and removes the empties, for refilling.
LPG can be supplied virtually anywhere, using a truck.
Transporting Gas Cylinders by Beasts of Burden
Transporting gas cylinders is not limited to trucks. There are some places that even a truck can’t go.
In some parts of the world, they go back to time-honoured methods.
They transport LPG using pack animals.
Mules can carry 100kg or more, so 2 or 3 small LPG bottles are well within their comfort range.
The accompanying picture shows LPG being transported via a mule train.
Transporting Gas Cylinders via People Power
Transporting gas cylinders in congested inner cities, with frequent traffic jams, requires other solutions.
In some countries, they don’t even rely on animals for help.
Push carts and bicycle carts work just fine when delivering LPG short distances.
So, for congested inner cities, with frequent traffic jams, what better way to deliver than with pedal power?
And then there is the most basic solution, just carrying them by hand, one at a time.
However, safety practices look to be an issue for some.
One of the key advantages of LPG is its portability.
LPG can be supplied virtually anywhere people can go.
Delivery methods can range from very sophisticated to extremely basic.
From requiring considerable capital investment to virtually no investment at all.
Regardless of how it’s delivered, LPG is there when people need it.
Clean, safe and reliable energy for everyone everywhere.
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The information in this article is derived from various sources and is believed to be correct at the time of publication. However, the information may not be error free & may not be applicable in all circumstances.