Cruising Into a Future with LNG

liquified natural gas
Image source: Travel Weekly

In mid-April, I attended GasTech 2017 in Tokyo. The focus of GasTech was Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and its impact on the world’s energy balance, carbon emissions, and technology. Now, I didn’t take a cruise ship all of the way from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Japan, but there are some interesting overlaps between LNG and cruising.

Why Liquefied Natural Gas

First, we need to understand LNG and its growing market share.

LNG is an odorless, colorless and non-corrosive natural gas that has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport. It takes up about 1/600th the volume of natural gas in the gaseous state (cruise ship stewards likely wish human luggage could take up 1/600th the volume too!).

The liquefaction process involves removal of certain components, such as dust, acid gases, water and heavy hydrocarbons. The natural gas is then condensed into a liquid at close to atmospheric pressure by cooling it to approximately −162 °C (−260 °F); maximum transport pressure is set at around 25 kPa (4 psi).

LNG is principally used for transporting natural gas to markets, where it is regasified and distributed as pipeline natural gas. LNG is expected to hit 10% of the global crude production by 2020.

Yet LNG is also being used to power ships worldwide. There are 100 LNG-outfitted ships today with another 72 LNG-ready and another 100 in manufacturing. This growth reflects a demand for energy efficiency and new international rules on sulfur content of fuel.

Smooth Sailing for LNG Ships

The primary use for LNG ships today is car and passenger ferries. Cargo ships rank second, and now the cruise industry is getting into the action with 11 ships already on order. According to Travel Weekly, Lloyd’s Register predicts “there will be 653 LNG-powered ships of all types built between 2012 and 2025, including 25 cruise ships.”
Soon you’ll be able to cruise to the islands with more efficiency. Talk about a win-win proposition! Although a trip to Tokyo would be worth taking, even without the cruise experience – I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the trip in a future blog (along with some photos).

In the meantime, GasTech was a great learning opportunity. I enjoyed discussions of LNG technology, gas transmissions and pipelines, infrastructure to use LNG as well as operator training. Check out the website, The conference, once again, showed how the world is tied together for energy and environmental issues. Let me know your ideas and LNG questions.

Scaling Upwards & Onwards

Next weekend is Super Bowl Sunday.  Let me know who you are picking and what type of food you are serving.  I will have my menu posted next month.

Technology is always changing. That is part of what makes our job and CPI process so interesting. Keeping up with new processes helps us to stay on our toes.

The AICHE recently focused a special section on Scaling Up Bioenergy Technologies. Author David Edwards noted that, “the approach developed for the traditional chemical process industries (CPI) projects must be modified to account for the challenges (changes) in the fluids and solids for bioenergy (biochemical) processes.”

We’ve experienced this need to modify our approach at BHS-Sonthofen in lab testing, pilot testing, and scaling up for continuous biochemical processes. We’ve worked to develop optimum continuous pressure and vacuum filtration technologies for biochemical applications.

CPI process

The important thing was to test, test, test. Yes, I’ve written that before. But Edwards would agree. He suggested skipping a step in a CPI process is possible if there’s sufficient data beforehand, but you simply can’t with biochemical processes.

It’s true. The process is too new. You need to get a full understanding of what you’re dealing with throughout the process to truly make these new technologies work. Good luck. Let me know if I can help.

Fireworks & Filtration. Happy 2016.


Solid-Liquid Filtration
New Year’s fireworks in Singapore, a place I enjoyed visiting this year for Gastech. Photo credit: williamcho / / CC BY-SA

With 2015 drawing to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the year. The release of the first edition of my Solid-Liquid Filtration Practical Guide for Chemical Engineers prompted me to start this blog.

So far, it’s been great. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to expand on my belief that good solid-liquid filtration process engineers proceed with caution and test, test, test.

I’ve opined about the need for consistent filtration ratings, advised against being blinded by the appeal of an idea simply because it’s new, and discussed the need for solid thinking before scaling up.

At the same time, I’ve enjoyed sharing with you examples of the importance of creativity in our industry. I’ve also mentioned Sherlock Holmes’ methodologies once or twice (OK, maybe more than that) in examining choices in equipment selection and touting my own practical guide to Solid-Liquid Filtration.

Plus I’ve been able to write about some insights gathered from my trips around the country and internationally to learn and share research from my role as President and Managing Director of BHS-Sonthofen Inc., a subsidiary of BHS-Sonthofen GmbH.

In Bahrain I leaned about non-conventional approaches and the importance of looking behind the data. In Germany, I sampled the Weisswurst while exhibiting a new Rotary Pressure Filter design. While in Singapore I presented and gained greater understanding of the LNG market.

I also hope you’ve had some fun, as I have had, with posts about engineering pranks or soliciting your opinions for a “Rock Stars of Filtration” list.

I’ve already started thinking with excitement about 2016’s blog posts. Yet I invite you to make suggestions! In fact, I’d welcome guest blogger contributions. Please let me know what interests you. I’d be happy to discuss it further.

Let’s Get Rating!

SLS technology
Image credit: .reid. / Foter / CC BY

College Football has its AP Poll, Coaches Poll and the BCS. College Basketball uses the RPI-Rating Percentage Index and Strength of Schedule. Soccer sees teams ranked by FIFA based on their success in their games over a four year period. Plus we use rankings to decide on what restaurant to go to, what beer or wine to drink, what movie to see or rent.. So where is the common standard for Filter Ratings? Without one standard rating system for SLS technology and filtration capabilities the user can easily get confused. Of course, testing is always key, but I can at least help you understand the four commonly used rating methods.

  1. Nominal Rating — an arbitrary micron value given to the filter by the manufacturer based upon removal of some percentage of all particles of a given size or larger. Since the value is rarely well defined and not reproducible, these ratings have little to no value.
  2. Absolute Rating — gives the size of the largest hard spherical particle that will pass through the filter or screen under specified test conditions. This commonly used rating is an improvement on nominal ratings.
  3. Beta Ratio a simple rating system based upon the ratio between the per unit volume number of particles above a given size in the influent (upstream) of the media suspension to the same parameter in the effluent (downstream) of the filter media.
  4. Air Permeability — the flow rate of air per unit area at a given differential pressure. This is normally expressed as cfm/ft2 at 0.5 inches water gauge. Typical ratings can be from 2 – 2000. Keep in mind, construction factors and finishing techniques have an effect upon air permeability as they can change airflow paths.

If there were one Absolute System when it came to rating, things would be easier, but maybe more boring too. Test. Test. Test. That’s how you’ll really find the best SLS technology option for your project. In the meantime, I’d argue we need to start a dialog about rating systems in the chemical, pharmaceutical, energy, oil and gas industries! What do you think? Comment below.

So Many Choices. Where to Begin?

filtration equipment
Photo credit: Adrian Kingsley-Hughes / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Selecting the right type of filtration equipment to use in liquid and solid separation is its own kind of sleuthing.

With such a wide range of equipment available, and only several basic principles of solid/liquid separation (pressure, vacuum and centrifugation), there are many considerations to weigh in determining the best, most cost effective, and efficient choice for a given situation.

Making this choice also requires you to be extra careful when working with suppliers who only offer one type of filtration equipment. The solution they offer may be “made” to work, but may not necessarily be the smartest choice.

No matter what, you’re going to need to carry out your own basic evaluations of possible or probable solutions and to establish which routes not to follow.

Where to begin?

There are several factors to consider before determining the best starting point:

  • Batch or Continuous Process 
  • Quantity:  Amount of slurry / liquids / solids to be filtered
  • Type of discharge: dry solids, wet solids, or concentrated slurry
  • Operation:  Automatic or manual
  • Product:  solid or liquid or both
  • Review the entire upstream and downstream process:  reactor cycle time, crystal sizing/breakage, solids handling, drying time, and other parameters.

Having gathered all of this information, the engineer is now in a position to get started. Yes, that’s right, get started. But this challenge is part of what makes process engineering fun every day, right?

We also have to find pleasure in the fact that the filtration equipment market is always evolving. As the world’s population grows, there’s increased need cleaner energy, improved water & food and advanced health care, all of which require us to continually improve filtration and separation technology.

This new blog aims to help by being forward-thinking about trends in the filtration market space, innovation, and business leadership. Let me know what you think!