IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


20th March, 2024 Economy


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  • GAIL’s Vijaipur SSLNG unit is being seen as a key first step in taking SSLNG distribution deep inside the country.


  • The Indian government aims to boost the adoption of natural gas to turn the country into a gas-based economy.
  • By 2030, India targets raising the share of natural gas in its energy mix to 15%, up from the current 6%.
  • This move is driven by natural gas's environmental benefits, cost-effectiveness, and the need to reduce reliance on imported oil, which currently covers over 85% of India's energy needs.

Challenges in Scaling Gas Consumption:

  • Expanding gas consumption in India faces a challenge in transporting gas to areas without pipeline connectivity.
  • This hurdle also hampers the use of LNG as a fuel for long-haul trucks, buses, and marine vessels—sectors with high potential for gas demand growth.
  • While large-scale pipeline projects are underway, last-mile delivery challenges may persist for years.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)


  • LNG is produced through a process called liquefaction, where natural gas is cooled to -162 degrees Celsius or lower, reducing its volume by about 600 times.
  • The liquefaction process removes impurities and heavy hydrocarbons, resulting in a high-purity LNG product.


  • LNG is transported in specialized cryogenic vessels, such as LNG carriers or ships, designed to maintain ultra-low temperatures.
  • Advanced insulation techniques and cryogenic storage tanks ensure safe and efficient transportation over long distances.


  • Electric Power Generation: LNG is used as a cleaner and more efficient fuel for power generation, reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter.
  • Industrial and Commercial Heating: LNG serves as a reliable and cost-effective energy source for various manufacturing processes, including steel, ceramics, glass, and food production.
  • Transportation Fuel: LNG powers heavy-duty vehicles, trucks, buses, and marine vessels, offering lower fuel costs, reduced emissions, and improved efficiency.
  • Residential and Commercial Use: Regasified LNG is distributed through pipelines for cooking, space heating, and water heating in residential and commercial buildings.
  • Industrial Applications: LNG is used as a feedstock for the production of chemicals, fertilizers, and other industrial products.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)


  1. Cleaner Fuel: LNG is a cleaner alternative to traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil, emitting lower levels of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter.
  2. Reduced Emissions: LNG combustion produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2), contributing to efforts to mitigate climate change and improve air quality.
  3. Energy Security: LNG reduces dependence on imported oil and enhances energy security by diversifying energy sources and supply routes.
  4. Versatility: LNG has diverse applications across various sectors, including power generation, industrial heating, transportation, and residential use, making it a versatile energy source.
  5. Cost-Effective: LNG can offer cost savings compared to conventional fuels, particularly in regions with abundant natural gas reserves and access to LNG infrastructure.


  1. High Initial Investment: Developing LNG infrastructure, including liquefaction plants, import terminals, and distribution networks, requires substantial upfront investment and long lead times.
  2. Safety Concerns: LNG handling and transportation pose safety risks due to the flammable nature of natural gas and the cryogenic temperatures required to maintain it in a liquid state.
  3. Methane Leakage: Methane emissions during LNG production, transportation, and storage can contribute to climate change, as methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a higher global warming potential than CO2.
  4. Market Volatility: LNG prices are subject to fluctuations influenced by factors such as supply-demand dynamics, geopolitical tensions, and regulatory changes, posing challenges for long-term investment decisions.
  5. Infrastructure Constraints: Limited LNG infrastructure in some regions restricts access to LNG as a fuel, particularly in areas without LNG import terminals or distribution networks

Future Outlook and Challenges:

  • Infrastructure Development: Expanding LNG infrastructure requires significant investments and regulatory approvals.
  • Market Volatility: LNG prices are subject to fluctuations due to supply-demand dynamics and geopolitical tensions.
  • Environmental Concerns: Addressing methane emissions during production, transportation, and storage is critical to maximizing the environmental benefits of LNG.

Small-Scale LNG (SSLNG):

  • SSLNG offers a promising solution to this challenge.
  • Recently, GAIL (India) Ltd commissioned India's first SSLNG unit at its Vijaipur complex in Madhya Pradesh.
  • SSLNG involves liquefying and transporting natural gas on a smaller scale using specialized trucks and vessels, bypassing the need for extensive pipeline infrastructure.

Understanding SSLNG:

  • Small-scale LNG (liquefied natural gas) refers to the liquefaction, transportation, and distribution of natural gas in smaller quantities compared to traditional large-scale LNG projects.
  • This niche market has been gaining traction due to its flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and ability to serve regions where large-scale infrastructure is not feasible or economically viable.
  • SSLNG liquefies natural gas and transports it to consumers through specialized trucks and vessels. This approach enables the supply of LNG to consumers in regions without pipeline connectivity.

Aspects of small-scale LNG:

  • LNG Liquefaction: Small-scale LNG liquefaction plants typically have lower capacities compared to large-scale facilities. These plants utilize various liquefaction technologies, including mixed refrigerant, nitrogen expansion, and cascade processes, to convert natural gas into LNG at a smaller scale.

  • Transportation: Small-scale LNG can be transported via trucks, rail, ISO containers, or small LNG carriers. Trucks are commonly used for short-distance transportation, while ISO containers enable efficient intermodal transportation, allowing LNG to be shipped via road, rail, or sea.
  • Storage and Distribution: Small-scale LNG infrastructure includes storage tanks, terminals, and regasification facilities. LNG can be stored in cryogenic tanks at distribution hubs or directly at the end-user facilities. Regasification terminals are equipped to convert LNG back into natural gas for distribution through pipelines or trucking for local consumption.
  • Applications: Small-scale LNG serves various applications, including power generation, industrial processes, transportation fuel for trucks, marine vessels, and remote areas without access to natural gas pipelines. It also enables the use of natural gas as a cleaner alternative to diesel or heavy fuel oil in off-grid locations.

  • Market Drivers: The growing demand for cleaner fuels, energy diversification, and the development of stranded gas reserves are key drivers of the small-scale LNG market. Additionally, stringent environmental regulations and the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are prompting industries to transition from traditional fuels to cleaner alternatives like LNG.
  • Economic Viability: Small-scale LNG projects offer advantages such as lower capital investment, faster deployment, and scalability compared to large-scale LNG projects. They can serve niche markets, remote areas, and regions with limited pipeline infrastructure, providing access to natural gas where it was previously uneconomical.
  • Challenges: Despite its potential, small-scale LNG faces challenges such as regulatory hurdles, permitting issues, and market uncertainties. Infrastructure development costs, including those associated with liquefaction, transportation, and regasification, can also pose challenges to the economic viability of projects.
  • Future Outlook: The small-scale LNG market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, driven by increasing demand for natural gas, the expansion of LNG infrastructure, and technological advancements. Innovations in modular liquefaction technology, small-scale storage solutions, and optimized transportation methods are likely to further stimulate market growth.

GAIL's Vijaipur SSLNG Facility:

  • GAIL's SSLNG unit at Vijaipur has a capacity of 36 tonnes per day.
  • It includes treatment and liquefaction skids equipped with cryo boxes, controlled by an automated SCADA system.

Use Case and Business Potential:

  • SSLNG facilitates the supply of LNG to industrial and commercial consumers for various applications.
  • Major players in India's oil and gas sector, including GAIL and Petronet LNG Ltd, are investing in SSLNG infrastructure to tap into new business opportunities.

Unlocking LNG's Potential as a Transportation Fuel:

  • LNG offers a cleaner and cost-effective alternative to diesel for heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Despite challenges such as vehicle availability and infrastructure development, companies like GAIL and Petronet are collaborating to promote LNG-powered vehicles.


  • SSLNG holds immense potential to overcome distribution challenges and drive the adoption of natural gas across sectors in India.
  • With strategic investments and collaborative efforts, SSLNG can revolutionize India's energy landscape, fuel economic growth, and contribute to environmental sustainability.


Q. Discuss the significance of Small-Scale LNG (SSLNG) in India's energy transition. Evaluate its potential benefits and challenges in expanding natural gas usage.