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Safety features on LNG ships*

F.S. Harris
F.S. Harris Ltd, 14 Karen Close, Hethersett, Norwich NR9 3DG, UK

The technology to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) safely by sea is well established and
many variations of cargo containment systems have been tested and developed since the
early 1950s. Examples of four current LNG ships incorporating different containment
systems are briefly described. Safety features are examined, now considered standard
practice on a modern LNG carrier, which have made a major contribution to the outstand-
ingly good record of LNG ship operations. Examples are given of some LNG ship casualty

Keywords: LNG; safety; sea t r a n s p o r t a t i o n

How many safety features are there on a typical liquefied cargo requiring to be carried at atmospheric pressure in a
natural gas (LNG) carrier? A difficult question to fully refrigerated condition at - 163°C. From the 1950s
answer, especially considering the complexities of the onwards marine engineers, naval architects, chemists,
construction and characteristics of the cargo. Without scientists, cryogenic specialists, multinational companies,
doubt it is the cargo itself that makes one of the largest learned bodies and shipbuilders across the world have
contributions to the overall safety of L N G ships. strived to produce the perfect L N G containment system.
The capital costs of gas carrier new-buildings, the The multitude of problems were overcome and 34 years
multinational nature of a complete project, together with ago in 1958 the first commercial carriage of L N G by sea
the potential market value of the gas, govern that only was made by a 5125 m 3 converted cargo ship Methane
major companies are involved in the L N G shipping Pioneer.
business. Responsible owners and operators of LNG What can be said about all of the successful contain-
carriers include oil and gas majors, and state controlled ment systems, and most of the unsuccessful ones too, is
companies such as Shell, BP, British Gas, NYK, MOL, K that they represent the highest professional standards in
Lines, Gazocean, Phillips Petroleum, Marathon Oil, terms of engineering, design, testing and construction.
Energy Transportation, Woodside Petroleum, BHP Pe-
troleum, Gotaas-Larsen, Burmah Oil, Malaysian Inter-
national Shipping and SNTM-HYPROC. Containment systems
At the carriage temperature of - 163°C, the density of
L N G is 450 kg m - 3, which is less that half the weight of Today the total number of L N G ships in service and on
water. This comparatively light and clean cargo is order is 90. To illustrate the current stage reached, details
shipped on dedicated routes in a uniformly loaded condi- of four examples of recent designs incorporating different
tion. On the return ballast leg the large water ballast containment systems are briefly described, which in
capacity of the L N G ship is also loaded uniformly with themselves highlight many of the safety features to be
the result that the hull girder is not subjected to large found on L N G carriers.
bending moments or excessive shear force loads which
can be experienced on oil tankers or bulk carriers of Technigaz membrane
similar dimensions. Beginning with the smallest ship, Figure 1 shows an
The shipping sector is a vital link in the overall L N G outline arrangement of the 18 800 m 3 L N G carrier on
chain for the success of the complete project and there- order, for the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK)/Perbadanan
fore the ships must be reliable and safe. Sister ships National Shipping Line joint partnership, from Japanese
operating on the same dedicated trade offer a consider- shipbuilder NKK, incorporating the French developed
able margin of safety in an emergency situation if a Technigaz Mark III membrane containment system.
transfer of cargo at sea should be required. The key to the Technigaz membrane system is the use
Designers were given the challenge of transporting of waffled stainless steel for the membrane primary
L N G by sea and to solve the problems relating to a light barrier. The membrane is a flexible liner with a series of
corrugations perpendicular to each other which resist
thermal changes and ship bending deflections. The Mark
*Paper presented at the "Low Temperature Engineering and Cryo- III design benefits from the experience gained from
genics Conference', 13-1 5 July 1992, Southampton, UK earlier Technigaz membrane designs and includes an
© 1993 Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd

772 Cryogenics 1993 Vol 33, No 8

Safety features on LNG ships: F.S. Harris

Shipbuilders NKK
Owners NYK/Perbad
Delivery 1993
, /
Length o.a. 130.00 m
Length b.p. 124.00 m
Breadth moulded 25.70 m
Depth moulded 16.60 m
Draught 6.50 m
Service speed 15.0 knots

Figure 1 1 8 8 0 0 m 3 Technigaz membrane LNG carrier outline arrangement

aluminium foil-fibreglass composite secondary barrier IHI SPB prismatic tank system
(Triplex) and a load bearing insulation system consisting
Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. Ltd, Japan
of a bonded sandwich of plywood and fibreglass-rein-
forced rigid polyurethane foam. have developed L N G carrier designs based on self-
The hull structure is arranged with internal flat sur- supporting prismatic tanks made from aluminium alloy,
similar to the pioneering Conch L N G system. The con-
faces for the insulation and membrane, which are provid-
cept has been named the IH[ SPB System, with SPB an
ed by a double bottom, double side hull and double deck,
with transverse cofferdam bulkheads between each cargo abbreviation of 'Self-supporting Prismatic-shape IMO
hold. type B'. The design meets IMO type B requirements with
a partial secondary barrier and is based on extensive
A prototype 630 m 3 vessel Pythagore was delivered in
structural and fatigue analysis of the tanks and tank
1964 to Gazocean from Duchesne et Bossiere shipyard
supports, and rigid quality control conditions. The cargo
Le Havre with two cargo tanks. The containment was
tanks are positioned by use of supports, keys and chocks
provided by two stainless steel membranes, cellular insu-
which prevent bodily movement of the tank under static
lation and two layers of plywood. The ship carried two
and dynamic loads, while allowing contraction and ex-
L N G cargoes and then traded with L P G and ethylene
pansion of the tanks under temperature variations and
until 1973.
hull deflections.
The N K K new-building will trade, as part of a 20 year
In 1988, IHI delivered a 1516m 3 ethylene carrier
supply contract, from Bintulu, Malaysia to Japan for the
Kayoh Maru which incorporated the SPB LNG system.
city gas utility Saibu Gas, which serves the northern part
The tanks were designed as L N G tanks and tested at
of Kyushu Island. The contract price was reported as
- 165cC with liquid nitrogen. Figure 2 shows the outline
around US$78 million.
arrangement of the 87 500 m 3 SPB L N G carrier, two of

i L

!iIll ' ~!

Shipbuilders IHI
Owners Phillips/Marathon
Delivery (2) 1993
Length o.a. 239.00 m
Length b.p. 226.00 m
Breadth moulded 40.00 m
Depth moulded 26.80 m
Draught 10.10 m
Service speed 18.5 knots

Figure 2 87 500 m 3 SPB LNG carrier outline arrangement

Cryogenics 1993 Vol 33, No 8 773

Safety features on LNG ships: F.S. Harris

which are under construction at IHI's Aichi works, for Moss Rosenberg. The development of the spherical tank
Phillips 66 Natural Gas Company and Marathon Oil containment system stems in part from the successful use
Company. The ships are due for delivery in 1993 and will of pressurized spheres for LPG carriers and from im-
trade from Kenai, Alaska to the Tokyo Bay area of proved analytical methods which enable finite element
Japan, and will replace the 71 500 m 3 Gaz Transport analysis to be made of the tank structural materials and
membrane carriers Polar Alaska and Arctic Tokyo, fracture mechanics studies to be carried out.
which have successfully served the same trade since 1969. Figure4 shows an outline arrangement of the
137000 m 3 Moss spherical tank LNG carrier Ekaputra.
Gaz Transport membrane Delivered in 1990 from the Nagasaki Works of Mitsu-
bishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Japan for Cometco Shipping
In 1991, Chantiers de l'Atlantique of St Nazaire, France, Inc., the ship is the largest LNG carrier built so far. The
brought LNG carrier construction back to Europe after cargo tank spheres are constructed of aluminium alloy
an interval of 14 years, by winning a contract to built five and are supported only at their equator by the ship's
L N G carriers for Petronas, the national oil and gas structure. A full secondary barrier is not required and
company of Malaysia. Figure 3 shows an outline arrange- instead a small-leak protection system or partial second-
ment of the 130 000 m 3 Gaz Transport membrane L N G ary barrier is fitted. Tanks are insulated with phenol resin
carrier. The cost of each ship was said to be US$260 foam and polyurethane foam. A weather protection is
provided for the above deck parts of the spheres.
The key to the French developed Gaz Transport
Ekaputra is now in service between Badak, Indonesia and
system is the use of invar for the membrane. Invar is a Kaoshiung, Taiwan with a contract to deliver about 1.5
36~o nickel steel alloy that has a very low coefficient of million tonnes of LNG per year over 20 years. The order
thermal expansion, with almost no shrinkage over the placed in 1987 for this single new building was reported
temperature range of ambient to - 163°C required for as in the region of US$140 million.
tile carriage of LNG. The hull structure of ships built to
the Gaz Transport system are arranged with internal fiat
surfaces similar to the Technigaz design. International Gas Carrier Code
A layer of insulation, made from plywood boxes filled
with loose perlite, is attached to the inner hull as the The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Code
secondary insulation. Flat invar membrane strips with for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying
upturned edges are fitted on the plywood boxes to form Liquefied Gases in Bulk was published in 1976 to provide
the secondary barrier. Another layer of plywood boxes international standards for the safe carriage of liquefied
filled with loose perlite is then fitted, followed by a second gas by sea in bulk. An edition incorporating amendments
invar layer to form the primary barrier. 1-4 was published in 1983.
The Gaz Transport membrane was developed during In June 1983 the Gas Carrier Code - 1983 Edition was
the early 1960s and as a testbed the 29866 m 3 L PG adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee of IMO as
carrier Hypolite Worms was built by Constructions Na- The International Code for the Construction and Equip-
vales et Industrielles de la Mediterranee (CNIM) with a ment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC
single invar membrane. Completed in 1968, with many Code). The 1983 Amendments to Chapter VII of the 1974
lessons learnt, the ship traded with L PG until converted International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea
in 1974 and was sold, as a Ro-Ro cargo ship, to breakers (SOLAS) makes the provisions of the IGC Code manda-
in 1984. tory under that Convention. The IGC Code applies to
ships built or converted after 1986.
Moss spherical tank system LNG carriers built since 1976 can be expected to have
incorporated into their design all the safety features
The spherical independent tanks sector for LNG carriers recommended by the Gas Carrier Code and each will
is dominated by the designs of Norwegian gas specialists have been issued with a Certificate of Fitness.

Shipbuilders Chantiers de l'Atlantique

r -- 1 Owners Petronas
Delivery (5) 1994/1997
Length o.a. 271.60 m
Length b.p. 260.80 m
Breadth moulded 43.30 m
Depth moulded 25.40 m
Draught 11.00 m
Service speed 21.0 knots

Figure 3 130000 m3 Gaz Transport membrane LNG carrier outline arrangement

774 Cryogenics 1993 Vol 33, No 8

Safety features on LNG ships. F.S. Harris

Shipbuilders MitsubishiH.I.
Owners CometcoShippingInc.
Delivery 1990
Length o.a. 290.00 m
Length b.p. 276.00 m
Breadthmoulded 46.00 m
Depth moulded 25.50 m
Draught 11.80 m
Servicespeed 18.5 knots

Figure 4 137 000 m 3 Moss spherical tank LNG carrier outline arrangement

M a t e r i a l s of Construction Piping systems for cargo or cargo vapours are segregated

from other piping systems. Entrances, air inlets and
Materials for the hull plating and stiffening, cargo tanks, openings to accommodation, service stations and control
cargo piping and welding requirements are especially stations do not face the cargo area. All air intakes and
selected and tested to suit their applications. Require- openings in the accommodation, service station and
ments include tensile tests, bend tests, Charpy V-notch control station spaces can be closed gas-tight. Access to
toughness tests and weld production tests. The extent of spaces considered gas-dangerous and cargo tanks is
the testing depends on the design temperature. Crack provided to allow entry and inspection by personnel
arresting grades of steel are incorporated in the hull wearing protective clothing and breathing apparatus.
structure at the deck, sheer strake and bilge strake.

Cargo piping systems

Cargo c o n t a i n m e n t
Cargo piping systems, including vapour and vent lines of
The cargo containment systems, either with independent
safety valves, are free to contract and expand under
tanks or membranes, are designed to take into account
temperature changes and from movements of the cargo
combinations of various loads, including internal and
tanks or hull deflections. Where necessary, piping must
external pressure, dynamic loads due to the motion of the
include mechanical expansion joints, insulation, electric
ship, thermal loads, sloshing loads, loads corresponding
bonding and sufficient safety relief valves. All liquid and
to ship deflections, tanks and cargo weight with the
vapour connections, except safety relief valves and liquid
corresponding reactions by way of the supports, and
level gauging devices, have shut-off valves as close to the
insulation weight and loads by way of towers and other
tank as possible.

Ship survival capability Pressu re relief systems

In connection with ship survival, IMO considers L N G Pressure relief systems are fitted at each cargo tank and
carriers as Type 1G ships. If the length of the ship is over throughout the cargo piping and set to lift at the design
! 50 m the ship should be capable of sustaining side and limit of the system. A typical setting for the relief valves
bottom damage anywhere along its length and remain for a L N G carrier would be 0.25 kg cm-2. Each LNG
afloat in a condition of stable equilibrium, based on cargo tank is fitted with two pressure relief valves of
assumed maximum areas of damage. Minimum distances equal capacity. The pressure relief valves are connected
are required for the location of the cargo tanks from the to a vent system to discharge through vent masts with
side and bottom shell depending on the length of the outlets located as high as possible above the main deck.
L N G carrier.
S u b m e r g e d cargo pumps
Segregation of cargo area
A pair of electrical submerged pumps are fitted at the
The cargo area of the L N G carrier is segregated from the base of each cargo tank for discharge. Power is supplied
main machinery and boiler spaces, service and control to the pump motor through stainless steel sheathed
stations, chain lockers, drinking and domestic water cables which pass through a gas-tight seal in the tank
tanks and stores by gas-tight steel bulkheads. Cargo dome. Submerged pumps and their motors are cooled
spaces are located forward of the machinery spaces. and lubricated by the cargo.

C r y o g e n i c s 1 9 9 3 V o l 33, N o 8 775
Safety features on LNG ships: F.S. Harris

Emergency shut-down domes, deck storage tanks, cargo manifolds and control
valves, as well as the boundaries of the accommodation
The emergency shut-down (ESD) systems on L N G ships or control rooms which face the cargo area. A dry
will operate automatically due to loss of electric or chemical powder system with at least two hand hoses or
control power, valve actuator power or fire at the tank combined monitor/hand hose line is fitted to reach any
domes or cargo manifolds. In addition, at various loca- part of the deck in the cargo area. In addition, enclosed
tions around the ship, stop control points are provided to gas-dangerous spaces are provided with fixed fire ex-
close the emergency shut-down system and stop cargo tinguishing systems. At least five firemen's outfits are
pumps and equipment as necessary. available on a L N G carrier.

Electrical arrangements Personnel protection

Certified safe type electrical equipment is fitted in gas- Crew members engaged in cargo operations are provided
dangerous spaces to minimize the risk of fire and explo- with suitable safety equipment. A complete set of safety
sion. The systems include flame proof and intrinsically equipment consists of self-contained breathing appara-
safe equipment and wiring. tus, protective clothing, boots, gloves and goggles, a steel
rescue line and an explosion proof lamp.

Purging and inerting

LNG casualty incidents
Each cargo tank can be safely gas-freed and safely purged
with cargo gas from a gas-freed condition. Gas sampling L N G carriers have been involved in collisions, ground-
points are provided for each cargo tank to monitor the ings, membrane damage, valve and pump failures, loss of
progress of purging and gas-freeing. As appropriate, propulsion and L N G leaks during loading, but without
interbarrier and hold spaces can be made inert depending any serious consequences, other than financial, for the
on the type of containment system. Inert gas is produced operators. There has been no incident where a cargo tank
onboard L N G carriers from a generator located in the containment system has ruptured and caused a spill of
machinery spaces. Production is carefully monitored L N G to the sea. The following are some brief descrip-
with alarms set at a maximum of 5 ~ oxygen content by tions of casualty incidents.
19th November 1969: Polar Alaska
Instrumentation During L N G loading at Kenai, Alaska, gas leaking was
detected at the no. 1 cargo tank primary barrier on the
The instrumentation on a L N G carrier is extensive in 71 500 m 3 Gaz Transport membrane L N G carrier. Invar
order to monitor all aspects of the cargo handling strakes creased in numerous locations. Cable trays broke
systems. Level indicators, liquid level alarms, pressure loose and caused damage. The vessel continued in service
gauges and thermometers are fitted throughout the cargo without using the no. 1 cargo tank and the damage was
tanks and cargo handling systems. A fixed system of gas repaired at a later date.
detection with audible and visual alarms is fitted with
sampling heads located in all spaces where vapour may 29th June 1979:E1 Paso Paul Kayser
accumulate. The equipment will take samples on a con-
After taking avoiding action to prevent a collision in fog
tinuous basis at intervals not exceeding 30 min. Portable
at 23:30 hours the 125 000 m 3 Gaz Transport membrane
gas detection equipment is also carried onboard. Instru-
L N G carrier ran on to rocks and grounded in the Straits
ments are tested for reliability in the working conditions
of Gibraltar when loaded with 95 500 m 3 of LNG. The
and recalibrated at regular intervals.
bottom shell and double bottom were extensively
damaged ever almost the full length of the cargo spaces.
Use of cargo as fuel The invar membrane was indented but remained liquid-
tight. There was no cargo spillage. The vessel was re-
On L N G carriers the cargo boil-off vapours are utilized floated on 4th July and on l l t h July the transfer of the
as fuel in the main machinery rooms and boiler rooms. cargo of L N G to sister ship El Paso Sonatrach was
The locations of the gas fuel pipe lines are carefully completed. The damaged ship was then gas-freed, inerted
arranged and do not pass through any accommodation and towed to Lisbon for temporary repairs. Later the
spaces with the whole system being controlled, ventilated vessel proceeded under her own power to the ship's
and monitored. original building yard at Dunkerque for full repair work.

3rd October 1980: LNG Libra

Fire protection and fire extinguishing
On a fully loaded voyage from Bontang, Indonesia to
Four separate fire protection and fire extinguishing sys- Japan the 126 750 m 3 Moss spherical tank L N G carrier
tems are available on L N G carriers. Structural fire was left without propulsion when the tail shaft fractured.
protection and equipment required for the accommoda- The Philippine Authorities gave permission for the vessel
tion and the ship in general are installed as per SOLAS. A to be towed to sheltered waters in Davao Gulf where the
fire water main system is fitted which is capable of L N G was transferred to sister ship L N G Leo using two
reaching any part of the cargo area with at least two jets flexible cargo hoses. The transfer began at 23:10 hours on
of water. A fixed water spray system covers the tank 10th October and was completed at 07:10 hours on 12th

776 Cryogenics 1993 Vol 33, No 8

Safety features on LNG ships. F.S. Harris

October. LNG Libra was then towed to Singapore for Skikda, Algeria. L N G from the no. 1 cargo tank over-
repairs. flowed on to the main deck, causing severe cracks to the
steelwork. The tank was discharged without further
12th December 1980: LNG Taurus incident. Extensive repairs were required resulting from
the spill.
The 126750m 3 Moss spherical tank L N G carrier
grounded in strong winds at Mutsure Anchorage, near
15th February 1989: Tellier
the end of a loaded voyage from Bontang, Indonesia to
Tobata, Japan. Approximately 40~o of the double bottom Moorings broke on the 40081 m 3 Technigaz membrane
was breached and open to the sea. Severe weather L N G carrier, due to 160 km h 1 winds, during L N G
conditions with gale force winds and 3 m waves around loading at Skikda, Algeria. Four terminal loading arms
the vessel hampered the salvage operations. Fuel from were damaged and L N G leaked to the main deck causing
the bunkers was transferred to a barge and the damaged extensive damage to the steelwork and upper primary
ballast spaces pressurized. The vessel was refloated on and secondary barriers in the no. 3 cargo tank. The vessel
16th December and then towed to Tobata where the full delivered L N G to Fos, France on 16th February. Steel-
cargo of L N G was discharged on 18th December. work repairs were carried out at Marseilles and the ship
returned to service in June with one of the five cargo
June 1983: Tenaga Satu tanks out of commission. Permanent repairs to the
containment system were completed at Marseilles in
Cargo pump defects caused damage to the no. I cargo
October 1990.
tank on the 130000 m 3 Gaz Transport membrane L N G
carrier. Approximately l l 0 m 2 of the invar primary
barrier was renewed and patches fitted at Yokohama,
Japan in June 1984.
The safe transportation of L N G by sea now spans 34
9th February 1984: Ramdane Abane years. Developments have been gradual, with all compo-
nents both large and small thoroughly tried and tested
During the discharge of Algerian L N G at Montoir,
before being used in practice. This brief presentation
France a cargo leak was noted through the no. 5 cargo
shows that the safety features of L N G carriers have in no
tank membrane on the 126 190 m 3 Gaz Transport mem-
small way contributed to the excellent operational re-
brane L N G carrier. The vessel was taken to the roads for
gas-freeing and inspection. Several suction manifolds
were also found to be cracked. Repairs were later carried
out at St Nazaire, France.
14th June 1985: Isabella
The assistance received from Chantiers de l'Atlantique
A cargo valve failed on the 35491 m a Gaz Transport and Japanese shipbuilders N K K , IHI and Mitsubishi HI
membrane L N G carrier at the beginning of the L N G in supplying information and data on their latest L N G
discharge at Barcelona, Spain after a voyage from carrier designs is gratefully acknowledged.

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