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Composite technology: Game changer for LNG as a marine fuel?

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Composite carbon fiber technology allows development of ultralight compact tanks

NOVEMBER 9, 2018 — ABS, OceanFinance and Scorpius Space Launch Company (SSLC) are joining forces on the SPACE TECH4SEA project to adapt composite technologies developed for the space industry to LNG fueled shipping.

The project, attracting more than EUR 1 million grant funding from the European Commission, aims to apply composite technology, which is lighter and more cost-effective, as a competitive alternative for marine LNG fuel tanks principally for short sea shipping.

“ABS remains at the forefront of LNG innovation by partnering with ground-breaking companies all over the world. Existing LNG tank technology can make adoption of the fuel prohibitively expensive. This composite technology has proven itself in other industries; we are committed to learning how to safely apply those lessons to benefit the maritime industries,” said ABS Vice President for Global Gas Solutions, Patrick Janssens.

The three-year development project will adapt SSLC’S PRESSURMAXX composite tanks for marine applications based on its current use in a range of industries and more than 200 clients including NASA. Composite carbon fiber technology allows development of ultralight compact tanks, making LNG as fuel feasible for a broader range of marine vessels.

“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 will remove these issues, offering significant improvement in vessels’ OPEX and CAPEX, making LNG as a marine fuel viable for a wide range of marine applications,” said Markus Rufer, President and CEO of Torrance, CA, based Scorpius Space Launch Company

“This technology is a game-changer product that will unlock latent demand for LNG as marine fuel. The benefit of leveraging this U.S .space technology, to improve the environment in European Sea basins, is obvious. We expect introduction of this innovative product will enable sales of more than 2,000 tanks in the next 10 years,” said Dr. Panayotis Zacharioudakis, Managing Director of Athens based OceanFinance, which describes itself as a boutique business development and advisory consulting firm.

The joint team’s goal is to create tanks which will be attractive for both newbuildings and retrofits by cutting costs, reducing weight and increasing vessels’ cargo capacity. The technology, which offers weight savings up to 80 percent over existing equivalent LNG tank designs and is not affected by corrosion, also introduces space technology safety standards to marine operations.

While the tanks are currently made by hand, the project aims to adopt a highly automated production line to ensure a competitive pricing level.

Engineers from ABS’ Global Ship Systems Center in Greece will provide the rules, regulations and standards under which the composite tank technology can be approved for marine applications, reviewing the designs submitted by SSLC.


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