A consortium led by Nasa supplier Scorpius Space Launch Company is developing ultra-light compact LNG tanks made of composite materials that are intended to cut dramatically the cost of using the gas as marine fuel.
The group, comprising the American Bureau of Shipping, lender OceanFinance and California-based Scorpius, has an ambitious plan of selling more than 2,000 tanks in the next 10 years, according to Scorpius president and chief executive Markus Rufer.
Designed mainly for shortsea shipping, the tanks will be developed over the next three years under the Space Tech4Sea project and are based on Scorpius’ high-pressure composite tanks already in use in other industries by more than 200 clients including Nasa.
“This technology is a game-changer product that will unlock latent demand for LNG as a marine fuel,” predicts OceanFinance managing director Dr Panayotis Zacharioudakis. “Composite technology can make LNG a compelling choice for shipowners. The size and weight of existing technology reduces capacity and increases the need for additional horsepower.”
Composite tanks would be smaller, corrosion-free and up to 80% lighter than existing tanks, offering a “significant improvement” in operating and capital expenditure for vessels, added Mr Rufer. The consortium sees a thriving business from newbuilds and retrofits, in part because they would boost tankers’ cargo-carrying capacity. Over the next three years the project aims to develop a “highly automated production line” of the tanks which are currently handmade.
The classification of the tanks will be developed by engineers from the American Bureau of Shipping’s global ship systems centre in Greece.