ABS granted approval in principle for Jiangnan’s 99,000m3 ethane carrier design last year and is now classing two newbuilds. (Credit: ABS).ABS granted approval in principle for Jiangnan’s 99,000m3 ethane carrier design last year and is now classing two newbuilds. (Credit: ABS).

Individual shipment scale in ethane transportation is set to reach a new level as a consequence of an order for two vessels of 99,000m3-capacity placed with a Chinese yard, writes David Tinsley.

The liquefied gas tankers will have an ethylene cargo carrying capability, but are intended primarily for the expanding US export trade in shale gas-derived ethane.

The newbuilds contracted from Jiangnan Shipyard by two Chinese leasing specialists will form part of the fleet controlled by Pacific Gas, the shipping unit of Shandong Marine Group. It is understood that the vessels will be deployed in the transport of ethane from the US to Europe on behalf of UK petrochemicals group INEOS, which is investing in a new ethane gas cracking facility in Antwerp.

The ships will adopt the BrilliancE Type B cargo containment system developed by Jiangnan Shipyard. With main dimensions of 230 metres length, 36.6 metres breadth and 22.5 metres depth, embodying four main cargo tanks, the ethane carrier design is dubbed the Bluebonnet, the state flower of Texas.

American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), which engaged with Jiangnan’s engineers during the conceptual stage of the project, granted approval in principle for the design last September and is the class society for the Pacific Gas newbuilds.

Twin goals of enhanced efficiency and environmental standard permeate the design and its powering solutions, including a dual-fuel, two-stroke propulsion engine with the ability to burn ethane, and energy-saving, direct-drive, permanent magnet shaft generator.

The BrilliancE Type B containment involves independent tanks fabricated from 5% nickel steel and employs multi-layer insulation panels and sophisticated leakage detection and mitigation measures.

INEOS was the first company to initiate regular, intercontinental seaborne shipments of ethane, when dedicated vessels of 27,500m3 capacity started to bring cargoes from the Philadelphia area to its plants in Norway and Scotland in 2016. Last year, flows of liquefied ethane from the US to China were implemented using a gas carrier of 85,000m3 as a consequence of a long-term contract between INEOS and Singapore-based SP Chemicals, which has established a new cracker at Taixing, in Jiangsu province.

At the beginning of 2019, INEOS announced a huge development project comprising an ethane gas cracker and propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit for the production of ethylene and propylene in Antwerp. The EUR3 billion (US$3.2bn) scheme, which has a four- to five-year construction and commissioning timeframe, is the largest investment in the European chemicals sector in 20 years, and will reinforce the city port’s position as Europe’s leading petrochemical cluster.

The institutions behind the Pacific Gas newbuilds are Bocom Leasing Management Hong Kong and SPDB Financial Leasing, part of Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. Deliveries are anticipated during the fourth quarter of 2021 and opening quarter of 2022, respectively. The Pacific Gas fleet currently comprises five liquefied ethylene carriers and nine very large LPG tankers.

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