ABS Sees Renewed Interest in Floating Concepts for Handling Stranded Gases

Classification society ABS says it is seeing a resurgence of interest in floating solutions for the transportation of natural gas aimed at capturing "stranded" gas reserves around the world. Although natural gas is abundant, more than one-third of global gas reserves are said to be stranded by their location of field size without commercially viable access to world markets. Estimates place these stranded gas reserves at more than 3,000 trillion cubic feet.

Speaking at the CWC Eighth Annual World LNG Summit in Rome today, ABS Europe President and Chief Operating Officer William J. Sember told the audience the repertoire of proposed gas transport systems designed to monetize these stranded reserves continues to expand. "ABS has now provided its "approval in principal" (AIP) to numerous emerging proprietary technologies or transport designs that are intended to economically develop these remote gas fields," Sember said. "The increasingly competitive cost and the operational benefits of these gas concepts are what developers hope will lead to sustained growth in this niche market."

Referring specifically to compressed natural gas (CNG) carriers and floating LNG concepts, Sember says his organization is seeing renewed interest in both concepts. Although CNG has been proposed as an effective method of transporting stranded gas for some years, the first project has yet to be finalized. Now, however, according to Sember, nearly a dozen CNG projects are on the verge of commercialization in various parts of the world. "ABS has granted approval in principle to all the leading technical concepts that have been developed for this sector, including variants such as compressed liquid natural gas," Sember said. "It is only a matter of time before the first major contract is finalized."

Floating LNG terminals are also in the works with ABS recently giving an AIP to a concept proposed by Japan's INPEX for a large scale gas field in the Timor Sea, offshore Indonesia, for the Abadi Gas Field. Another concept, also reviewed by ABS, has been developed by SBM Offshore which has joined with German-based gas processor Linde to develop a LNG FPSO. Also involved in the project is the IHI shipyard of Japan that has the proprietary rights to the self-supporting, prismatic Type B gas containment design. SBM/Linde plans to commence production of gas from the first unit in 2012.

"With interest continuing at such high levels, designs and proprietary processing technologies are now on the eve of being commercialized," said Sember. "From a class society perspective we are being contacted early on in the conceptual phases of many of these projects to verify for the developers that the concept is technically sound and will be unlikely to run into any serious regulatory hurdles," he added.

As the industry leader in offshore classification, ABS has pioneered the use of risk-based approaches to develop Rules for new designs and novel concepts such as those being proposed for some of these projects. This has been particularly beneficial to validate novel ship and gas containment and transport designs.

Founded in 1862, ABS is a leading international classification society devoted to promoting the security of life, property and the marine environment through the development and verification of standards for the design, construction and operational maintenance of marine-related facilities.