Introducing LNG for inland shipping: Designing the sea-river LNG carriers

Ladislav Illés's picture
Ladislav Illés, Lead Engineer, MULTI Engineering Services
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The continually increasing demand for LNG and the rapidly growing small-scale LNG (ssLNG) market in Central and inland Europe highlights certain deficiencies in continental LNG transport.

A significant boom is expected in the areas of LNG-fuelled vehicles and power plants asking for more efficient supply chains and distribution networks. Therefore, an international consortium, ‘LNG Masterplan’, has been established for the most important inland waterway Rhine-Main-Danube. The outcome for this consortium is to promote the introduction of LNG as a fuel and cargo for inland shipping that enables economic and ecological transport of LNG from the seaports to the energy consumers in major industrial areas along the inland waterways.

The development task arisen from our sub-activities at MULTI Engineering Services was to design a suitable fleet of vessels for Danube. The project was ordered by Danube LNG, representing the European Economic Interest Group (EEIG). The group was established with the main business purpose of research and development; aimed at comprehensive technical and economic aspects of the logistics chain for the supply of LNG. EEIG is the beneficiary of support from the European Union under the European Commission Decision, dated 16th October 2013 (2012-EU-18067-S).

Fleet of LNG Vessels: The main component of the LNG supply chain study is the proposal of a complex transport and storage system consisting of 10 floating LNG terminals moored to the river bank along the concerned Danube waterway; 4 sea-river LNG carriers with 1 or 2 attached LNG tanker barges and 20 coupled floating piers moored nearby the LNG terminals. Ultimately, a fleet of numerous cargo ships and pushers powered by LNG and navigating the waterway belong to the supply system as well. As a result of the development process, a set of innovative vessel types were designed.

 Sea-river LNG Carrier – The “Flagship”: Our aim was to develop a concept of a sea-river LNG carrier, not only capable of being loaded from standard sea-going tank ships into sea harbours but also be able to provide a door-to-door transport from coastal LNG distribution terminals to the inland terminals located on river banks along the entire combined navigation zone.

This raised a question, is it possible to manage an economical short sea-deep inland transport of LNG with a universal water transport instead of engaging specialised sea-going and inland navigation vessels and cargo transfers between them?

The answer was to design completely new self-propelled river-sea tanker ships developed especially for carrying LNG on the combined waterway beginning in the Caspian Sea, passing through the Black Sea and ending in the Middle Danube area.

As required, the tanker ship:

  • Offers extended sailing and operation capabilities.
  • Has the ability to navigate both, rivers with restricted water depth (seasonal draught less than 1.65 m) and air draught and coastal seas under more severe weather conditions (maximum wave height up to HS 5.0 m corresponding to sea state 6).
  • Can act as a river pusher assembled to a pushed convoy with tanker barges.

The independent LNG loading/unloading system of the carrier can redistribute the cargo in the LNG cargo tanks of the convoy during the voyage which enables the convoy to sail on rivers with an optimal draught at shallow water conditions. In addition, the tanker is equipped with a boil-off gas (BOG) recovery system for managing and re-liquefying the gas not consumed as a fuel. This is extremely important when the watercraft traffic is stopped on the river and the vessels are forced to float anchored for several days.

This elaborate project addresses efficiency in transport, distribution and the storage of LNG in the region of the Middle and Lower Danube. In addition, the innovative design of the LNG fleet makes it applicable in similar coastal sea navigation zones of the world including the waterways of the major rivers.


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