Ice-Class LNG Carriers: Innovation to the Extreme


There are simpler tasks than exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from an isolated area in a high latitude that is subject to extreme weather conditions. But that is the challenge Total has set itself and its partners, Russia's Novatek and China's CNPC, for the Yamal LNG project in Russia.

Challenge 1: site access. Yamal LNG is located in a high latitude, far from conventional shipping routes. Currently, only a few ships can navigate through this area with the help of icebreakers.

Challenge 2: maneuverability. The conventional icebreaking vessels that currently navigate around this area are quite small to ensure adequate maneuverability. Liquefied gas, however, takes up a lot of space. To be profitable, then, it must be shipped in large LNG carriers.

Challenge 3: environmental impact. It takes a great deal of power to push through ice that can be more than two meters thick. But we wanted to use the LNG in the cargo for propulsion.

The solution: the ice-class, a new breed of LNG carrier currently under construction.

The benefits of this innovative solution include:

  • Year-round access to the Yamal LNG liquefaction plant unaided by icebreakers, thanks to a navigation system where the ship runs ahead in ice under 1.5 meters thick, and astern (i.e. backwards) in thicker ice of up to 2.1 meters.
  • Easy maneuverability in the ice despite the ship's 290 meters in length and 170,000 cubic meters of cargo capacity, thanks to rudderless propulsion. This system uses three azimuth thrusters – marine propellers capable of rotating 360° – to swiftly change the ship's direction.
  • Cargo protection in the form of a strengthened hull to safeguard against the impact of the ice and vibrations, and winterized equipment designed to withstand temperatures of down to -52°C.
  • A diesel engine capable of running on gas, which can produce enough energy and electricity from LNG for the ship's propulsion and operating requirements.

In all, 15 ice-class LNG carriers will be built for Yamal LNG, meaning that a shipment of cargo will leave the site every 40 hours. This world first will ensure gas supply meets demand in many markets, particularly in Asia.

The first ice-class LNG carrier is scheduled for delivery in 2016.