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World’s first ice-breaking LNG tanker ready to serve Yamal LNG project

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SCF has announced that Christophe de Margerie – the world’s first ice-breaking LNG tanker – has successfully berthed at the gas terminal at Sabetta Port in Russia, making it the first vessel to do so.

The vessel will serve the Yamal LNG project, transporting LNG all year round in the icey conditions of the Ob Bay and Kara Sea. It has been assigned the highest ice class amongst existing merchant vessels – Arc7 – and is capable of sailing independently through up to 2.1 m thick ice. It is capable of carrying 172 600 m3 of LNG in a single voyage, which is enough to meet all of Sweden’s gas requirements for almost four weeks. It is 299 m long, 60 m high, and its propulsion system has a total power of 45 MW.

On 30 March 2017, the vessel’s master, Sergey Zybko, reported to Vladimir Putin that the ice trials and first mooring at the Yamal LNG terminal in Sabetta had been executed. The ceremony was attended by: Russia’s Minister of Transport, Maxim Sokolov; Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Energy, Alexey Texler; the Deputy Head of National Energy Administration of China, Li Fanzhun; the Chairman and CEO of Novatek, Leonid Mikhelson; the Chairman and CEO of Total, Patrick Pouyanné; and the President and CEO of SCF Group, Sergey Frank.

Speaking in his salutary address, Putin said: “I should like to congratulate everyone on today’s event. I congratulate the Russian participants and our foreign partners. The arrival of this new tanker, designed for Arctic conditions, is a big event in Arctic development, as is the construction of the port of Sabetta, where the tanker docked today. The port was built entirely from scratch.

“I should like to draw your attention to the fact that in developing the Arctic’s enormous wealth, our basic principle is not to cause any harm. We realise that this region’s ecosystem is very sensitive to any human interference. But I know your work in detail and I know for certain that the port, the ships that will use it, the production methods used, and the transportation system all use the most advanced technology and meet the highest environmental standards. The first of the new ships docked today. Fifteen of these ships will be built in total, with the involvement of Russian shipbuilders.

“It is with pleasure that I note that this new ice-class ship, which is one of its kind in the world, bears the name of our late great friend, French businessman and former head of Total, Christophe de Margerie, who so tragically left this life.”

Sergey Frank added: “Today’s events are the result of a painstaking and thorough collaboration between Sovcomflot, Novatek, and Yamal LNG which took close to 10 years. A project of this scale and complexity required a thorough evaluation of all the details. This is fully justified: the Arctic does not forgive those that rush and lack professionalism. The starting point was the successful experience of SCF Group working in energy projects in the Barents and Pechora Seas, as well as two experimental transit voyages along the Northern Sea Route, undertaken by Sovcomflot and Novatek in 2010 – 2011 with the support of Russia’s Ministry of Transport and Atomflot. Together, we have proven that using high-latitude routes as a transport corridor, for large-capacity vessels, is not only technically possible but also economically feasible. In many ways, these results have laid the foundation for the successful implementation of the Yamal LNG project, which would have been impossible without an efficient and safe logistics scheme to transport LNG by sea.”

Maxim Sokolov commented: “Construction of the Sabetta Port is based on the principles of public-private partnership and is the world’s largest infrastructural project being implemented in the Arctic latitudes today. The total volume of investments is 108 billion rubles, where 72 billion rubles are resources from the federal budget, and a third comes from private investment. Now the port is actually operating under normal conditions. The full-scale implementation of this project not only has allowed building the LNG plant, but also has strengthened the position of the Russian Federation in the Arctic, and contributed to the development of the Northern Sea Route.”

Leonid Mikhelson said: “This region is the richest location in terms of its reserves. It is possible to produce more than 70 million t of LNG and create a hub with a more than a 15% share in the world market in terms of its cost here. The new infrastructure will help implement this goal in the shortest possible time.”

Christophe de Margerie is the prototype vessel for a series of 15 gas carriers, all of which are planned for the Yamal LNG project. The appearance of this particular carrier signalled the market debut the new Yamalmax class of vessel.

The propulsion system of the new gas carrier comprises Azipod type propulsion units. These provide a high degree of manoeuvrability, and allow the use of the stern-first motion principle, which is required to overcome hummocks and heavy ice fields. Uniquely, Christophe de Margerie features three Azipods – the first time that so many propulsion units have been installed on an Arctic ice class vessel.

Ice trials were successfully carried out between 19 February and 8 March 2017 in the Kara and Laptev Seas. During the trials, the vessel managed to exceed a number of indicators, including the following:

  • The vessel proved its capability to move stern-first in ice that was 1.5 m thick at a speed of 7.2 knots (the target figure was 5 knots).
  • The turning circle of the vessel in ice that was 1.7 m thick was 1760 m (the target was 3000 m).

Ice trials were attended by representatives of the shipyard (Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering), key equipment suppliers (mainly ABB, producer of the Azipods), and leading industry research and design organisations, both Russian ones (Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Krylov State Research Centre) and international ones (Aker Arctic Research Centre, Hamburg Ship Model Basin).

During the carrier’s maiden call at the Sabetta Port, the vessel successfully carried out a trial passage through purpose-built seaway canal, which is the most difficult part of the Ob Bay navigationally speaking. This engineering structure – which is unique for the Arctic basin – is intended to be operated in difficult conditions of constant ice drift. The canal has a depth of 15 m, a width of 295 m and a length of 50 km.

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