Jiangnan Shipyard has developed a new design for a groundbreaking multigas newbuilding that looks set to become the world’s biggest ethane carrier.

The Chinese state-owned shipbuilder has drawn up a concept for a 150,000-cbm ship that will be fitted with four GTT Mark III membrane tanks for transporting ethane from US producers to China.

The 274-metre-long, 42-metre-wide vessel has been designed with a shallow draught that will allow it to navigate the Neches River in the southern US state of Texas, where a new ethane export facility is being built.

Shuttling between the US and China

Speaking to TradeWinds, Jiangnan technical director Hu Keyi said the ultra large ethane carrier (ULEC) will be used to shuttle cargoes between the US and China.

Jiangnan’s newly developed 150,000-cbm ULEC is a tailor-made and fit-for-purpose design

Hu Keyi

“Jiangnan’s newly developed 150,000-cbm ULEC is a tailor-made and fit-for-purpose design,” said Hu.

"The loading capacity and fuel consumption for the fixed route between the US and China will be balanced and optimised. The propulsion will be an ethane-fuelled two-stroke engine with an in-line shaft generator covering re-liquefaction equipment in unladen voyage in order to maximise opex [operating expenditure].”

Terminal conversion

According to gas players, would-be exporter American Ethane will be converting a dry bulk terminal at Texas' Port of Beaumont into a ethane export terminal.

Jiangnan Shipyard's design is far larger than the 87,700-cbm VLEC Ethane Topaz Photo: Ed Carr

The yard, which has a tradition of giving its ship designs nicknames, has named the ULEC design Magnolia.

“Magnolia is the state flower of Louisiana and the letter M means membrane,” Hu said, referring to Texas' neighbouring state.

He said Jiangnan has also developed concepts for a range of very large ethane carriers from 93,000 cbm to 120,000 cbm. They can accommodate GTT Mark III containment systems or Jiangnan's own Brilliance Type B tanks.

“The reason behind the different designs is to meet special requirements of different export and import terminals,” Hu added.

Last year, TradeWinds reported that American Ethane was drawing up a design for huge ethane carriers that will have the option to carry LPG in the event that ethane cargoes are not ready.

China's Nanshan Group has a preliminary agreement to buy nearly one-quarter of the output from the company’s planned 10-million-tonnes-per-annum US plant.

American Ethane has signed a memorandum of understanding with China LNG Shipping and Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group for transporting ethane from the US to China.