The 17 April 2014 delivery of Höegh LNG’s PGN FSRU Lampung has brought the number of LNG carriers in the current fleet to the 400 level. The landmark ship is the first of four 170,000 m3 floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs) that the Oslo-based ship owner had contracted at Hyundai Heavy Industries Ltd. (HHI) in Korea.

On completion, the FSRU sailed for Lampung at the southern tip of Sumatra, where it will go into service as Indonesia’s second FSRU-based LNG receiving terminal. The Lampung FSRU is being stationed 20 km off the coast in 23 metres of water for at least 20, and possibly as many as 30, years. The vessel is equipped with mooring structure at the bow which enables connection to a tower yoke mooring system at the site.

Classed with DNV GL, PGN FSRU Lampung has a reinforced GTT Mark III membrane tank containment system and is provided with three 6-cylinder Wärtsilä dual-fuel engines to enable a service speed of 10 knots. As the vessel will remain at the designated offshore station for most of its working life, a full-scale propulsion system was deemed to be unnecessary.

The global LNG carrier fleet that the milestone vessel is joining has followed a remarkable growth path since the first commercial cargo of LNG was delivered from Arzew in Algeria to Canvey Island in the UK, almost 50 years ago, in October 1964.

It took 34 years for the in-service fleet of LNG carriers to reach 100 vessels and a further eight years for it to break through the double century barrier. The 200th ship was the 145,000 m3 Maersk Qatar (now Milaha Qatar), a GTT Mark III membrane tank ship completed by Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) in April 2006.

As demand for natural gas continued to soar, fleet growth accelerated in the latter half of the past decade and it took only just over two and one-half years for the next centennial milestone to be reached. The 300th LNG carrier in the fleet that was then in service was the 155,000 m3 Tangguh Jaya, completed in December 2008.

Also built by SHI and also a GTT Mark III membrane tank vessel, Tangguh Jaya was built for a K Line/PT Meratus Line joint venture and service in the carriage of LNG from the newly commissioned Tangguh LNG export plant in Indonesia’s Papua province to customers in China, Korea and elsewhere.

Thereafter, following the global financial crisis that broke in September 2008, the pace of ordering new ships slowed and it has taken over five years for the 400-ship landmark to be reached.

The slowdown will be temporary, however, and the gap to the 500th ship will be shorter. There are currently 120 LNG carriers on order and the next centennial celebration is due in late 2016 – another gap of only two and one-half years.

The resurgent growth in the LNGC fleet is being spurred by strong demand for gas in Asia. The seven world-scale LNG liquefaction plants currently under construction in Australia will do much to service the rising requirements of China, Japan and Korea. The Australian schemes will add about 65 million tonnes per annum (mta) of LNG production capacity, or about one-quarter of the current global trade in LNG.

But Asian purchases of LNG will not end there and already new LNG export schemes are taking shape in the United States, Canada and East Africa, primarily with Asian needs in mind. The LNG fleet will continue to expand strongly in order to carry this new production to world markets and meet customer needs.

The next 100 ships are set to include an even wider variety of ship types than the latest 100. The continuing extension of the LNG supply chain into the small-scale segment will ensure the presence of the world’s first purpose-built LNG bunker vessels amongst the deliveries. And, as the timely appearance of PGN FSRU Lampung highlights, FSRUs are well represented in the current orderbook. There will also be a debut for the world’s first icebreaking LNG carrier.

FSRUs provide an ideal vehicle for gas import nations to achieve access to this clean-burning fuel on a fast-track basis and at comparatively low cost. Approximately one-half the new LNG-receiving projects currently taking shape are based on the use of an FSRU rather than a traditional shore-based terminal, which comes complete with storage tanks, a marine jetty arrangement and vaporiser units.

The new FSRU terminals are envisioned as either a temporary measure, until a growing call for gas prompts the need for a full-scale, shore-based receiving terminal, or as all the import nation will require in terms of import infrastructure.

There are currently 17 FSRUs in service and 12 on order. Four FSRUs were completed in 2013 and, of the eight LNG carriers delivered so far in 2014, three are FSRUs. The complement is set to increase going forward as existing FSRU newbuilding options are exercised and orders for further vessels of this type are placed.

In 2013 the capabilities of the current LNG carrier fleet were once again logged by the Paris-based International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL). All LNG carrier voyages and cargo discharges completed last year are recorded in its recently released report, The LNG Industry in 2013.

By end-December 2013, the in-service fleet of LNG carriers had reached 393 vessels. During the year this fleet completed 3,998 laden voyages, delivering 236.91 million tonnes of LNG, a meagre 0.3% expansion on the 2012 total. Japan’s 26 receiving terminals accounted for 1,532 of the voyage total, or one less cargo than in 2012. That is equivalent to just over four shiploads per day, or 30 per week, for the world’s largest LNG importer.

China received 260 cargoes in 2013, up from 206 the previous year, while deliveries to the Southern Cone of Brazil, Argentina and Chile totalled 224, a 24% rise on the previous year. Interestingly, there were 82 LNG cargoes delivered to the South East Asia quartet of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand and 53 to the Middle East, more specifically Dubai, Kuwait and Israel. Israel and Malaysia are the two new LNG import nations of 2013.

While setting the scene for resurgent growth and buoyant times ahead, GIIGNL’s The LNG Industry in 2013 publication also looks back to report that since the first commercial LNG delivery in 1964, over 75,000 cargoes have been delivered without loss.

Author: Mike Corkhil a technical journalist and consultant specialising in oil, gas and chemical transport, including tanker shipping and chemical logistics. A qualified Naval Architect, he has written books on LNG, LPG, chemical and product tankers and is currently the Editor of LNG World Shipping.

Source: BIMCO