Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is transported around the globe in ships the size of modern aircraft carriers, carrying as much as 75 million gallons of LNG or the equivalent of over 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas. LNG is transported in multiple cargo tanks at cryogenic temperatures of about -250 °F. Because of their double hull design, these LNG ships have an exemplary

safety record, but a large cargo tank breach could spill significant volumes of LNG. Sandia National Laboratories assembled a diverse, multi-disciplinary team of fire science, cryogenic damage, hazardous cargo transportation, and structural testing

and modeling experts from across the Laboratories to support the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Energy in addressing potential ship damage and stability concerns from a large LNG spill. This group of experts developed analysis and modeling tools to estimate the damage to ship structure caused by internal flow of the cryogenic liquid and the effect

of high temperatures ensuing from an external LNG spill fire. Analysis results were then used to assess the impact that the thermal insults had on the structural integrity and stability of LNG ships. Additionally, the analysis helped identify likely ship and spill behavior and related public safety concerns and hazards. Sandia’s team developed a series of novel approaches

to testing, damage modeling, and structural analysis required for this project. These approaches were unique in their complexity, scale, and required integration. This effort included the development and execution of small and large-scale thermal and mechanical (including thermo-mechanical) tests of LNG ship materials and representative structures.

The need for detailed structural models to analyze the long-duration ship damage and stability behavior required several innovations in the use of high performance computing, damage modeling, and analysis approaches. These efforts have demonstrated to industry and federal agencies the depth and breadth of Sandia’s modeling and testing capabilities and analysis expertise that can be applied to address complex engineering and safety problems. This work was conducted in FY09-FY12.

Contact: Carlos Lopez


Modeling was conducted to determine the effects of fire on LNG ships.


Cryogenic damage to a ship from a large internal spill.


Cross-sectional view of a LNG carrier.


Figure Caption: (Above left) Modeling was conducted to determine the effects of fire on LNG ships. (Above right) Cryogenic damage to a ship from a large internal spill. (Left) Cross-sectional view of a LNG carrier.