Geospatial Analytics Shines A Light on Global LNG Trade (Part 2)

Geospatial Analytics Shines A Light on Global LNG Trade Part 2

Demystifying LNG Supply Chain with Facility Intelligence and analyzing LNG trade routes with ship AIS data


In the previous article, we discussed Sabine’s LNG Supply Chain from a global shipment perspective and introduced a way to analyze the LNG supply chain using AIS data. We used vehicle traffic data and Orbital Insight algorithms to detect and visualize the construction of Sabine’s new shipping berth. Then we applied AIS data to ship traffic algorithms to analyze the impact of Sabine train 6 on global LNG trade. In this final article of our facility intelligence series, we will find out where ships are delivering the LNG, analyze the volume of the LNG being delivered and determine how that volume has changed over time.

Analyzing LNG Trade Routes

The Orbital Insight TerraScope AIS data pipeline enables users to discover several hidden components of the global LNG trade. The result from our analysis includes several elements - ship counts, volume, and minute details about the ship’s location at any point, its speed, the registration county, potential destinations, vessel type code, and vessel status. 

Figure 8 is a time animation of the vessel’s voyage(s) from 2019 to the present. The same is true for almost every ship we queried in our analysis, leading to the assumption that an LNG tanker’s delivery route is more complex than originally thought.

Figure 8: An animated visualization of the vessel’s voyage(s) from 2019 to the present.

Detailed Analysis

We know more unique ships are coming to Sabine to pick up LNG, and later departing to embark on their complex delivery voyage. Our next task is to determine precisely where each ship is going and any changes to the delivery volume at each import terminal. Analyzing these changes before, during, and after the construction of Train 6 will give us an indication of the train’s global impact. 

As we learned in Figures 7 and 8, the Cadiz Knutzen’s delivery schedule is complex and diverse, similar to that of tankers of the same category. The global heatmap of LNG vessel traffic (Figure 3), also strengthens this point. No matter which country they are registered in, LNG tankers are delivering LNG from Sabine to import terminals across the globe. 

Our platform’s robust AIS data pipeline allows users to understand every single detail about commercial vessels, down to their coordinates, at any given time. One particular field, vessel_status, allows us to understand when ships stop to pick up or drop off material. Additionally, AIS is diverse. Because there are thousands of different types of ships at sea, each is assigned a type code, or a two-digit integer, that allows it to differentiate itself from others. For example, law enforcement boats have a type code of 55. Medical Transport crafts have a type of 58. Pleasure Crafts, or luxury yachts, have a type code of 37. In our case, tankers, or ships carrying LNG, have type codes that fall between 80-89. The point is that these filters allow us to piece together the global LNG supply chain from an AIS perspective. 

Figure 9 is a map of every LNG import terminal that has received a shipment of LNG produced at Sabine Pass, symbolized by the country the terminal is located.

Figure 9 Every LNG import terminal that has received a shipment of LNG produced at Sabine Pass

Figure 9: Every LNG import terminal that has received a shipment of LNG produced at Sabine Pass.

Figure 10 is a cluster map that highlights the volume of trips per region. It is clear that the most frequented region for LNG tankers carrying Sabine’s gas is Western Europe.

Figure 10 is a cluster map that highlights the volume of trips per region

Figure 10: A cluster map that highlights the volume of trips per region.

Figures 11 through 15 are visualizations that highlight delivery volume, broken out on a regional basis.

Figure 11 Volume of Trips to Central America

Figure 11: Volume of trips to Central America.

Figure 12 Volume of Trips to South America

Figure 12: Volume of trips to South America.

Figure 13 Volume of Trips to Europe

Figure 13: Volume of trips to Europe.

Figure 14 Volume of Trips to the Middle East

Figure 14: Volume of trips to the Middle East.

Figure 15 Volume of Trips to Asia

Figure 15: Volume of trips to Asia.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together

Now that we know where LNG tankers are going and the rough volume of delivery to each port, we can further quantify that volume by import country. We can then analyze the change in such volume over time to see whether the number of trips have increased or decreased. An increase in trips following train completion will indicate that Sabine Pass is exporting more gas, likely due to the increase in local production capacity. 

Let’s first look at the breakdown of delivery trips by country (Figure 16). The line chart indicates that Spain is importing the greatest volume of gas, with the United States, Belgium, Brazil, and the Netherlands following suit. From a continental perspective, we see that Europe and South America are the leading destinations for ships coming from our terminal.

Figure 16 Unique ships carrying LNG from Sabine Pass 2019 to 2022

Figure 16: Unique ships carrying LNG from Sabine Pass, 2019 to 2022.

We can plot that same data over the period of train construction and see noticeable differences not only in export volume but also how that volume has indeed increased, as seen in Figures 17 and 18. Each notch on our plot represents a unique ship, while the colors of each bar represent the ship’s destination country. Overall, it is clear that more ships are delivering LNG to these destinations in the Spring of 2022 than any other season in our query.

Figure 17 18 Change in delivery volume over time by Importing Country

Figure 17 - 18: Change in delivery volume over time by importing country.

An arbitrary exercise 

Let’s say an LNG stakeholder in Norway, who has been tracking the progression of our new train, wants to know where tankers registered in his country are going after picking up at Sabine Pass. Not only is he interested in each tanker, but he is also interested in the number of trips, the drop-off locations, and the time of delivery for each ship. His request may seem complex, but our exercise is proof that Orbital Insight is suited to handle and deliver this level of precision. 

Figure 19, a sunburst plot, shows where and when Norwegian ships are delivering material. The plot also shows the volume of delivery per ship. For example, the Iberica Knutson was by far the busiest of all Norwegian ships in the years leading back to June 2019, with deliveries to 12 different countries. The plot illustrates that this tanker is primarily dropping off the gas at Trinidad and Tobago, followed by Portugal. One particular Norwegian ship, the Wildforce, is only making one delivery with Sabine gas, providing a shipment to Kuwait.

Figure 19 A sunburst plot

Figure 19: A sunburst plot that shows where and when Norwegian ships are delivering material.


This exercise shows the art of possible with the Orbital Insight TerraScope platform. A simple exercise to determine the construction of an LNG Train from space quickly became an all-out supply chain discovery project. While we were initially interested in answering a single question, the answer led us to ask more questions: 

  • Can we see the Sabine Pass Train 6 being constructed? 
  • Can we see when construction began or when it was completed? 
  • Can we see trends in movement that would indicate productivity? 
  • Do productivity levels provide a sneak peek of construction progress or completion? 

What else can we see? While each question is important, the significance lies in our ability to provide answers and insights. Train 6 was completed in February 2022. The completion of the train, as verified in our exercise, has led to increased output. Increased output has led to more supply of LNG, and a larger supply left LNG importers with more deliveries from our plant.

Whether it is an LNG terminal construction project, an Oil & Gas facility, or monitoring a chemical plant, geospatial analytics can provide answers to strategic questions. What would you like to know?

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