LNG project explores space tank technology

Carbon fibre composite tank technology from space applications could make LNG fuel tanks lighter and more affordable (credit: ABS) Carbon fibre composite tank technology from space applications could make LNG fuel tanks lighter and more affordable (credit: ABS)

A new research project by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), OceanFinance and Scorpius Space Launch Company (SSLC) is aiming to adapt space industry materials to LNG shipping.

The three-year Space Tech4Sea project will adapt SSLC’s composite carbon fibre tanks, currently used by more than 200 space industry clients, for marine applications. The partners hope the ultralight compact tanks will be a competitive alternative to traditional tank technology in gas-fuelled ship designs, principally for short-sea shipping.

“Existing LNG tank technology can make adoption of the fuel prohibitively expensive,” said Patrick Janssens, vice president for global gas solutions, ABS. “This composite technology has proven itself in other industries; we are committed to learning how to safely apply those lessons to benefit the maritime industries.”

The technology offers weight savings up to 80% over existing equivalent LNG tank designs and is not affected by corrosion. The tanks are currently made by hand, but the project aims to adopt a highly automated production line to ensure a competitive pricing level. Panayotis Zacharioudakis, managing director, OceanFinance, said he expected the technology would will enable sales of more than 2,000 tanks in the next 10 years.

“The size and weight of existing technology reduces capacity and increases the need for additional horsepower,” said Markus Rufer, president and CEO, SSLC. “Composite tanks will remove these issues, offering significant improvement in vessels’ opex and capex, making LNG as a marine fuel viable for a wide range of marine applications.”

Engineers from ABS’ Global Ship Systems Center in Greece will provide the rules, regulations and standards under which the composite tank technology can be approved for marine applications.

The project has been granted €1 million in funding from the European Commission.

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