Natural gas is, as the name suggests, a gas. However, it’s possible to cool natural gas so that it takes on a liquid form. To take on a liquid form, the gas must be cooled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooling the gas also makes it more compact. The volume of LNG is 600 times smaller than natural gas. Cooling gas this way has been possible since the 1800s. Liquified natural gas is easy to transport, and has many applications.

Liquifying natural gas means it can be brought to an area not served by a pipeline. This is important for most international sales of LNG. Typically, liquified natural gas is transported by tankers. The gas is stored in cryogenic tanks on board. Natural gas is liquified for export, and regasified at the importing port. Once it’s regasified, it’s piped to customers. A small amount of LNG is also transported in ISO certified containers on smaller ships, and some trucks.

Liquifying natural gas isn’t just a useful trick to make transportation easier. It’s also possible to store LNG at power plants for emergencies in special tanks. In very hot or very cold weather, the demand for power increases. Having LNG on-site at a power plant means it’s possible to generate extra power quickly to fill these needs. It’s compact enough that it’s easy to store enough to make a difference in a crisis.

The US imports and exports liquid natural gas. Because of new developments in extracting natural gas, the US has been able to produce more in recent years. The United States has become a net exporter of natural gas, including LNG. The US still imports some LNG from Canada, but that number is declining. In fact, for 2018, the US imported more LNG from Trinidad and Tobago than from Canada, France and the UK combined. America exported LNG to several countries, including South Korea, Mexico, China and Japan.

Liquified natural gas is an important resource. It’s great for the US economy. That’s not just because it’s a lucrative resource to export. LNG is also important because it helps the US be more energy independent. Storing LNG ensures that America’s power plants and businesses can keep running, even during challenging times.