Qatargas II (a joint venture of Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil) and ExxonMobil have collaborated to develop and implement a new generation of larger, more efficient LNG ships. They will be industry's first LNG ships with cargo capacities greater than 200,000 m3 (Figure 1). Through the application of several new technologies for LNG ships, along with optimization of marine systems and transportation efficiencies, this new generation of ships represents a significant step change in reducing the cost for delivery of liquefied natural gas to markets worldwide.
This initiative represents a key element of the Qatargas II project, whose goal is to develop 15 MTA of gas from the Qatar North Field. While the geographic location of the Qatar gas resources allows sales to both the East and the West, the remoteness from new markets in Europe and America calls for innovation and integration across the full value chain in order to achieve project success. For the transportation element of this value chain, the focus has been on how to achieve economies of scale and efficiency improvements via large ships.
Industry relies on an LNG shipping fleet that has evolved considerably over the last fifty years. From the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, the fleet experienced steady growth (Figure 2). Following a period of relative stability in the mid-1980s, the fleet again saw significant growth that continues today. Interestingly, although the number of ships in the fleet has increased considerably, cargo capacity for new LNG ships has remained relatively stable for the last 30 years (Figure 3). A significant increase in cargo capacity from roughly 75,000m3 to 140,000m3 was realized in the mid-1970s and has remained the standard until only recently.