Evergas First Off the Mark with Ethane Carriers
Evergas chief executive Steffen Jacobsen explains how his company achieved a breakthrough, launching the first dedicated ethane carriers
Based in Copenhagen and part of Jaccar Holdings, Evergas is a leading gas carrier operator. Including newbuilding orders, the company’s fleet comprises 13 semi-pressurised/fully refrigerated (semi-ref) ethylene carriers, eight Dragon-class semi-ref LNG/ethane/ethylene carriers and six fully pressurised LPG carriers.
LNG World Shipping recently spoke to Evergas chief executive officer Steffen Jacobsen about the latest developments at his company. Of particular interest to the industry are the company’s 27,500m3 Dragon-class ships, four of them delivered and four due for commissioning by mid-2017.
The Dragon-class vessels are the first gas carriers built to carry large volumes of ethane, and the chemical giant Ineos has chartered all eight for this purpose. The vessels carry US shale-derived ethane from the Mariner East terminal at Marcus Hook near Philadelphia across the Atlantic to Ineos plants at Rafnes in Norway and Grangemouth in Scotland.
By bringing the competitive advantage of low-cost US ethane to Grangemouth and Rafnes for use as feedstock, Ineos has taken a major step towards securing the future of its European operations.
LNG World Shipping: To what extent has the involvement of parent company Jaccar Holdings facilitated the recent build-up of the Evergas fleet, including the addition of the distinctive new type of gas carrier to transport ethane?
Steffen Jacobsen: For a start Jaccar’s significant presence in the Chinese market helped secure the necessary financing for the Dragon-class newbuilding programme locally. Secondly, their involvement in a number of Chinese shipyards and ship engineering companies supported the development of the cutting-edge gas carrier designs now represented across our fleet.
The Evergas semi-ref ethylene carrier fleet includes four 32,000m3 vessels under construction in China that will also be able to carry ethane and which are termed Ineos Max vessels. How will these ships align with the Dragon-class business for Ineos?
Initially, all eight 27,500m3 Dragon-class ships will trade ethane across the Atlantic under long-term time charters with Ineos. When the 32,000m3 gas carriers are completed in 2018/2019, they will replace four of the Dragon ships under the Ineos charter arrangement.
The replaced vessels will be redelivered to Evergas and, as they are multigas-capable and we foresee continued development of the small-scale LNG sector, we envisage their future deployment in the LNG trades. We are working on several small-scale LNG feasibility projects to have the vessels committed to long-term time charters well in advance of them becoming available.
How are the early Dragon-class ships performing in service? Is ethane featuring as a propulsion system fuel on the vessels?
A typical round-trip voyage takes 24 days, including all margins. Each loading and discharge operation is carried out in approximately 24 hours while the combined sailing time of the eastbound and westbound voyages is about 21 days.
Ethane is the primary propulsion system fuel and is used for both the loaded and ballast legs of the voyage. The system’s flexibility enables the use of both cargo tank vapours as natural boil-off gas (NBOG) and ethane from the deck fuel tanks as forced boil-off gas (FBOG) as required. The NBOG mode is usually employed during the loaded passages to maintain cargo condition and save on reliquefaction plant running hours.
The Wärtsilä dual-fuel engines for the Dragon ships were initially designed to run on conventional oil fuels as well as LNG but a decision was taken during the vessel construction stage to modify the units to enable them to also burn ethane.
It is up to Ineos whether they use LNG, ethane or conventional fuels in the ship propulsion systems during the course of the charter. Evergas has provided them with the options and the flexibility of choice.
Has the introduction of the Dragon-class ethane carriers to the Evergas fleet necessitated any special crew training programmes?
From a ship operations point of view the modified engines are not very different from LNG-burning dual-fuel engines. We have teamed up with Wärtsilä and some manufacturers of equipment fitted on the ships to configure tailor-made training courses for our engineers.
The training portfolio includes a Wärtsilä programme, a Kongsberg course covering the use of their onboard equipment and systems, a navigational simulator package to assist masters in negotiating the lock at Grangemouth and a generic LNG course.
There are also familiarisation opportunities for relevant ship and shore staff through specially arranged meetings and conferences. Training for shore staff has included joint familiarisation sessions with the charterer covering the use of ethane cargo as fuel.
The first Dragon-class ships were ordered in January 2013, against the Ineos charters. Has Evergas been able to build on the breakthrough achieved with these precedent-setting ships with further gas carrier design developments?
One notable advance we have made is the 10 per cent increase in cargo-carrying capacity offered by the Ineos Max ships in a hull which is the same size as that of the Dragon ships.
The major contributor to the capacity boost has been the use of dish head end covers on the Type C cargo tanks. This solution was developed utilising in-house Jaccar group expertise.
The quest for improved ship energy efficiency and environmental protection performance is ongoing. As an example, we are working with the Hamburg model test tank (HSVA) to further optimise the Ineos Max 32K hull, via the hull lines, bulbous bow and propeller arrangements, to reduce power needs and thus improve our energy efficiency design index (EEDI) score.
Looking ahead, Jaccar has embarked on a venture with Hartmann called United Ethane Carriers, which is building a series of five 85,000m3 very large ethane carriers for charter to Oriental Energy. As the gas shipping expert within the Jaccar group, Evergas could well have some involvement with this project at a later stage.
Our newbuilding programme is currently limited to the final four Dragon ships and the Ineos Max quartet. However, bearing in mind the Jaccar/Evergas entrepreneurial mindset and the stated wish to expand our presence in the ethane and small-scale LNG markets, we are open to the possibility of further newbuilding series against long-term time charter commitments with bankable counterparts.
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Source: LNG World Shipping