Nicholas Newman Flame March
Across the world, virtual pipelines are extending the market and increasing demand for gas. Virtual pipelines bring regular deliveries of gas to customers lying outside the reach of existing gas distribution infrastructure. Facilitated by sophisticated transport logistics software, distribution companies replicate by road, rail, waterways or oceanic transport, the regular flow of gas from a pipeline. In essence, virtual pipelines are a flexible and adaptable alternative gas distribution channel.
Virtual pipeline operators usually purchase gas in bulk from pipeline hubs, transform it into compressed natural gas or buy liquid natural gas (LNG), for transportation by road trailers, rail wagons, barges or ship tankers to customers at which point regasification takes place. The typical customer, an institution or business, will have costly high energy consumption and medium to large scale demand, and is looking for a regular supply of relatively cheaper gas to cut fuel bills.
Three examples will illustrate the diversity of the market. In north America, Aroostook Medical Centre in Maine has switched to gas for heat and power with gas delivered by lorry, whilst in Western Australia, Fortescue Metals Group operated Solomon mine receives gas deliveries by land or road train consisting of a tractor unit pulling several trailers. In Europe, Ineos, a petrochemical company based in Scotland has begun to receive ethane, extracted from Marcellus shale gas delivered by eight dedicated company tankers criss-crossing the 3,500 mile Atlantic. Read more