World’s largest ethane carrier ordered

Dragon-class liquefied multi-gas carriers maintain the US ethane traffic to INEOS plants in Norway and the UK Dragon-class liquefied multi-gas carriers maintain the US ethane traffic to INEOS plants in Norway and the UK

China’s shipbuilding industry is to construct the world’s largest liquefied ethane carrier for the transport of US-produced ethane to a new cracker at Taixing, writes David Tinsley.

The project for the 95,000m3-capacity vessel forms an integral part of the long-term ethane shipment contract recently signed by London-headquartered, multinational chemical company INEOS with SP Chemicals.

The Luxembourg-based Jaccar Group has been entrusted with management of the construction of the very large ethane carrier (VLEC) in China. Industry sources indicate Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Offshore as the nominated contractor.

On anticipated completion in 2019, the vessel will be operated by the Jaccar-associated liquefied gas tanker specialist Evergas of Denmark, which also controls the 27,500m3-capacity, Dragon-class multi-gas carrier series serving the INEOS transatlantic ethane traffic.

Cargo containment in the 95,000m3 newbuild will be provided by Type C Tri-lobe VLEC tanks developed by JHW Engineering & Contracting in co-operation with the Hartmann Group. The Tri-lobe solution offers around 20% more cargo capacity than bi-lobe tanks within a given hull envelope.

SP Chemicals’ new gas cracker at Taixing, employing French engineering group Technip’s proprietary ethylene technology and process design, will rely on ethane and propane imports from the USA. Extracted from natural gas, ethane serves predominantly as a petrochemical feedstock for the production of ethylene, used as a basic component in the manufacture of many chemicals and plastics, including plastic packaging.

The US shale gas revolution has created plentiful supplies of low-cost ethane. Investment in port infrastructure and shipping have led to a growing export trade.

INEOS was the first company to initiate seaborne intercontinental ethane transportation. A new era for US ethane exports opened in March 2016 when the 27,500m3 JS INEOS Intrepid loaded the first shipment from the Marcus Hook terminal near Philadelphia for discharge at INEOS Europe’s ethylene cracker in Rafnes, Norway.

The vessel is one of eight Dragon-class liquefied gas tankers built in China for Evergas to serve the INEOS traffic to its Rafnes and Grangemouth plants. Six of the ships were delivered by Sinopacific Offshore & Engineering in Qidong during 2015 and 2016, and two were built by Jiangsu New Yangzi Shipbuilding in Jingjian and commissioned into service this year.

“By bringing in US ethane from shale gas to China for the first time, we are now leading the way in shipping ethane worldwide to meet the needs of an expanding chemicals sector,” said David Thompson, chief executive officer of INEOS Trading & Shipping.

SP Chemicals’ Taixing complex supplies a range of products, including caustic soda, chlorine, aniline, vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) and styrene monomer, to domestic and overseas markets.

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