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Houston-based American Ethane announced plans to order 17 very large ethane carriers at Gastech in Houston on 17 September. The 150,000 cbm capacity VLECs will be ordered from Chinese shipyards Hudong-Zhonghua and Jiangnan, both of which received approval in principle for VLEC designs earlier in 2019.

The vessels are designed for long-distance, large scale ethane transportation. The vessels will feature GTT’s Mark III membrane containment system, which allows the cargo capacity to be enhanced within the vessel’s dimensions, while retaining a limited draft.

The newbuilds will be contracted on the basis of a long-term contract signed between American Ethane and China Merchants Group to supply three Chinese chemicals producers, Nanshan Group, the Ganergy Group and the Yangquan Coal Group, with US shale gas-derived ethane. Cargoes will be delivered to new discharge terminals and gas crackers. Construction of the facilities has yet to begin.

An export terminal in Beaumont Texas is expected to have a throughput capacity of 7.2 million tonnes/year of ethane once construction is completed.

The first VLEC is expected to be delivered by mid 2021, with the last of the series of vessels expected to be delivered by 2023.

The vessels will be propelled by a single MAN gas-injected, ME-GI two-stroke in its ethane-capable GIE version. The 6G70ME-C9.5 GIE-HP dual-fuel engine is specified at an NCR rating of 19,219kW at 79.4 rpm.

The vessel also features 4 x auxiliary engines, specified at 1,800 kW, and includes a selective catalyst reduction system to limit NOx emissions.
Ethane fuel is derived from cargo vaporisation (“boil-off”) during the vessel’s regular operation, while a further 2.5% of the vessel’s cargo is expected to be consumed between the Gulf Coast and eastern China. The vessels will have a range of 12,000 nautical miles.

PRINCIPAL PARTICULARS—VLEC design:
 Length overall                                           274.0m
 Length bp                                                 269.0m
 Breadth, maximum                                   42.0m
 Depth                                                       22.8m
 Draught, design                                       12.2m
 Deadweight                                              C85,500t
 Cargo capacity                                         c150,000m3
 Cargo tanks                                              4
 Min. design temperature                         -104degC
 Main engine                                              MAN 6G70ME-GIE
 Speed                                                      17 knots
 Class                                                        ABS

Source: American Ethane