Innovation in the LNGC sector

Thursday, 21 January 2021
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A continuous stream of LNGC design and operations innovations have been seen in the past decade, said Patrick Janssens, ABS Vice President, Global Gas Solutions, talking with LNG Shipping News.

Vessel designs have continuously evolved to meet changing trade demands and this evolution is set to continue.

“An owner ordering a vessel 15 years ago would have had very little choice in what they could specify,”Janssens said. “LNG carriers were almost all large ships of around 140-145,000 cu m with standard designs featuring steam propulsion and little choice of containment systems.”

Today, the drive for higher performance vessels has seen a choice of propulsion and containment systems come onto the market. The need to respond to changing trading patterns has also meant that it is becoming more common for new vessels to include a reliquefaction system.

With the emergence of something akin to an LNGC spot market, ships may load for different destinations, depending on the state of the market and the season, potentially spending more time on the water, so requiring greater use of reliquefaction.

“These changes in demand have also seen the emergence of mid-scale and small-scale LNG shipping, with new trades requiring discharge flexibility to parcel level where a large LNG carrier may discharge to the shore or other vessels for final delivery to small, draft-restricted ports,” Janssens explained.

This has driven further innovation in new vessel design with concepts such as the LNT- A-Box, which can serve the small and mid-size cargo demand directly. Its simplified design also means it can be constructed at shipyards that otherwise would not be able to compete for LNGCs.

It is not uncommon for new designs to take time to gain commercial acceptance. For example, in 2013, ABS granted an Approval in Principle (AiP) to Lattice Technology for its Lattice Pressure Vessel (LPV) tank, which features a flexible, space-saving shape for carrying fuel or cargo. It took until 2017 for Lattice Technology to secure its first order, for a 15 cu m LNG fuel tank installed on board a South Korean port clean-up vessel.

Mid-scale LNGCs

One of the major future trends is likely to be more mid-scale LNGCs for energy supply and LNG bunkering. Their development has only scratched the surface and the designs will continue to adapt to the need for greater market flexibility.

“All innovation creates technologies with different levels of success. The class society AiP process is designed to encourage innovation and to recognise technology that can be applied safely and sustainably,” he said.

Not all concepts come to fruition, as not all prove commercially acceptable to owners, but AiPs demonstrate to buyers that creative minds are trying to find new solutions and the best will survive the process of natural selection.

“The AiP process will continue to give owners confidence across a range of options from which to select the technologies appropriate for the next generation of vessels,” he concluded. 

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