Improving LNG Operations: Knowledge Based Operations Advisory and Training System

As demand for LNG increases worldwide, players face seemingly conflicting challenges. On one hand, they must expand capacity in different regions, make the business and production as agile and adaptive as possible, and improve operational efficiency. On the other hand, they need to improve operating margins while upholding contractual obligations. To meet these challenges, higher-level automation and IT solutions are required to enable operators and engineers to effectively oversee the business and plants, while maintaining the quality and safety of operations. Analyzing the gaps in the existing solutions, this paper focuses on elaborating a practical, innovative and holistic solution to address the aforementioned challenges.


Energy outlook by ExxonMobil reports that over the next few decades, population and income growth - and an unprecedented expansion of the global middle class - are expected to create new demands for energy. We see global energy consumption rising by about 35 percent from 2010 to 2040. 

Rising demand for electricity - the “invisible” energy that powers everything from home appliances to global e-commerce and banking networks to advanced robotic manufacturing - remains the single largest influence on global energy consumption. From 2010 to 2040, global electricity demand is projected to increase by about 85 percent as living standards rise, economies expand and the electrification of society continues.

Now looking at the preferred fuel to produce electricity, natural gas is expected to supply 135 percent more electricity in 2040 than in 2010, and overtake coal as the largest source of electricity. The IEA has called this era “the golden age of natural gas,” and for good reason. Consumers are increasingly choosing natural gas for its versatility, efficiency and availability as well as its cleaner-burning properties. Global demand for natural gas is projected to rise by 65 percent from 2010 to 2040, the largest volume growth of any energy source. We expect half of that increase will come from the Asia Pacific region, particularly China

Challenges in LNG Operation

Being the most preferred fuel for supply the world’s electricity supply, it is very obvious that the operations facility will increase. Having said that, to sustain the supremacy over coal, LNG operators have to continuously explore areas to improve the operation efficiency to reduce cost. While investigating the current practices in operation, in this region, it is clear that a “reactive response” is still prevalent when it comes to either controlling the critical equipment performances within the Best Efficiency Point (BEP) operating envelope or the operations within safe envelope is certainly not preferred in LNG operations as in many cases the “time to respond” is too short. During transient states, the information of alarms and events

can be overwhelming, and contribute to delay in actions from operators, jeopardizing the reliability of equipment health and at times plant safety. The operator needs to ‘sense’ and ‘respond’ immediately for a quicker recovery. Operator’s key challenge is to gather the right information to take recommended actions. Moreover since not all operators are having the same level of knowledge to handle unexpected situations and emergencies, it becomes even more important to improve “Operator readiness” across the board and not stop with just providing the “right information”.

There are many “off the shelf” packages available in the market today but they still don’t completely address the current issues/needs. The needed information is scattered in many packages and still continue to operate in silos. Integrating these silos and extracting the useful/relevant information from them for the decision makers and operators to respond becomes very essential for the success of any operations and crucial to LNG operations, taking into consideration the available “response time”. This remains still unsolved and hence a big gap in today’s available solution.

The Proposed Solution Model

Shown below is the conceptual diagram of the holistic solution to improve LNG operations. The major functional blocks are numbered here for easy understanding.


 The recommended solution here uses the advancement in technology to

  • Handle the data from various silos, integrate them, process them to extract the useful information and present the relevant information to everyone across the hierarchy in the plant organization for effective monitoring, timely decision making and timely corrective actions.
  • The proposed solution system has inbuilt intelligence to learn the experienced operator responses to any critical alarms/alerts or how he operates any non-routine critical operations like start-ups/shutdowns and others. Then it identifies the best operating practices and provide a workflow to update the SOPs and keep them current, updated and thereby standardizing the best practices. It thus captures and retains the knowledge of an experienced operator and use them to guide new/inexperienced operators in similar instances in which he is not familiar at.
  • The high performance and unique simulation system will track the operator’s action in real time and can predict the behavior of the process and present it to him in shorter time frame. This is like a fast track feedback system to the operator, providing the useful information containing details of the effect of his current/last action. This kind of real time predicted feedback system will allow the operator to correct his actions even before a fault can occur. The prediction system will take into account the nominations and will help the supervisors to plan in advance to handle the operations to accommodate the nominations.
  •  The solution system will also identify the frequently occurring failures in the operation due to human errors and alert the management for the need for improvised training program. The solution also provides a virtual platform to provide the training scenarios for the operators to get familiarized on the correct & sequential procedures to handle them if it occurs in future. The training system uses the latest gaming technology to engage the new generation operators.


It is quite obvious from the ExxonMobil’s energy outlook through 2040 that about two-thirds of the growth in fuel demand for power generation is expected to occur before 2025. By that time, improvements to efficiency will begin to significantly slow global demand growth. This shift, is expected to come from improved technologies and the shift away from older, coal-fired generators to newer, more efficient natural gas-based units and renewables. So LNG operators should be prepared to adapt to these advancement in technologies to improve their operational efficiencies to stay competitive in the market.