Liquefied Gases Handling


As the only type of commercial vessel, Liquefied Natural Gas carriers have in the past many years maintained the steam turbine as their preferred propulsion system. This trend has persisted despite the fact that all other types of commercial vessels changed to the more efficient diesel engines in the 1970s, as a consequence of the rising fuel prices and increased environmental awareness.

Moreover, diesel engines have also proved their reliability during many years of operation. The LNG carrier did maintain the steam turbine as its propulsion system because the natural evaporated boil-off gas from the cargo is available anyway, and because no other solution for the use of boil-off gas has been made available, at that time. There are, in principle, two ways of exploiting the boil-off gas, it can be burnt in a boiler, gas turbine or dual fuel diesel engine and provide power for the propulsion of the vessel, or the boil-off gas can be reliquefied in a reliquefaction system and returned to the cargo tanks. The reliquefaction of the boil-off gas from the LNG cargo makes it possible to increase the cargo quantity delivered to the customers, instead of using it as fuel, and to install more efficient propulsion systems on LNG carriers.

An LNG carrier is a special-purpose ship in which sophisticated technology is used to transport liquefied gas, a highly flammable cargo. Safety is, of course, paramount, as is the reliability and availability of the propulsion system of such a ship, because these factors influence the whole supply chain from the well to the consumer.

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The main purpose of the author of this publication was to provide all interested people with some sort of guide to safe and efficient transportation of the LPG and ammonia; up to now, the coverage of ammonia transportation has never been covered in any single book. We do hope that it will be very useful not only to the personnel directly involved in operating the gas carriers but also to the operating staff of the gas terminals where such products are handled.

Though some treatment has been provided to the equipment used, this publication shall not be considered as the pure technical guide. The author tried to  examine the most important technical problems associated with the transportation and handling of the LPG/ammonia cargoes and cover some technical aspects of the running of LPG carriers. It shall be noted that at all stages the detail procedures to follow are depending upon the conditions under which the cargo will be loaded/discharged and carried - this can be done with the gas being fully-pressurized, semi-pressurized or fully-refrigerated (at regular atmospheric pressure).

The book is arranged in three parts, first two deal with the pressurized and fully-refrigerated ships while the third part concentrates on the cargo calculations, safety matters and recommendations. The technical information is supplemented with the glossary of the terms used.

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My topic today is the drafting of LNG charters. This may seem a bit of a dull topic but I would ask you to bear in mind that the charter hire for a new generation LNG vessel is around US$28 million per annum! Charters are often for 25 years, so it is important to get the drafting right.

This is obviously a big topic and I will therefore concentrate on certain areas - the type of charter used, the relationship between the Owner, the Charterer, the Builder and the Banks, particular points to look for in long term charters, and dispute resolution - always important to a lawyer, but also to the client. First of all a little background. LNG is a rapidly growing market and in the area which I have some particular expertise, Qatar, there are interests in over 75 LNG vessels both built and to be delivered in the next few years. Traditionally, LNG chartering was done on the basis of an individual project, the sale contract was entered into between the Seller and the Buyer, LNG vessels were built to service that particular project and were on long term charter to the Charterer or an Affiliate of the Charterer.

That has now begun to change, although I, personally, think it a little too early to talk about there being a spot market for LNG. There are now Contracts of Affreightment, short term time charters, voyage charters, cargo swaps and single cargo contracts. However, I think that the focus is still on the long term time charter and therefore that is what I am going to talk about today.

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