Carrier for a New Energy Source

High costs and dependability on imported hydrocarbon fuels, along with environmental considerations, have spurred government agencies in certain Asian countries to develop research programs focusing on the recovery of gas from marine hydrates. Natural gas hydrate (NGH) is a chemically stable, crystalline substance, and such hydrates bind immense amounts of methane in seafloor sediments. Taking a proactive line, Japan's Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding has unveiled a design proposal for a vessel tailored to the needs of NGH transportation. Mitsui's work on the specialized carrier forms one element of a comprehensive study into the creation of an NGH industrialization and energy supply chain. Its fellow collaborators in the development of handling and shipping solutions are the National Maritime Research Institute and Osaka University, with the support of the Corporation for Advanced Transport & Technology. The conceptual design of vessel offers about 155,000- cu. m. of NGH carried in pelletized form five independent tanks, within a hull envelope of 984 ft. (300 m) length, 151- ft. (46-m) breadth and 180-ft. (24.5-m) depth. Service speed would be around 17 knots. The NGH is pelletized for transport so as to better retain the integrity and energy value of the substance, decrease the rate of boil-off during transit, and improve cargo handling efficiency. Loading and unloading of the NGH pellets would be accomplished using discrete, mechanical conveyor systems. Hydrate is a gas concentrator, to the extent that a unit volume of methanehydrate at a pressure of one atmosphere produces about 160 unit volumes of gas. Mitsui's own endeavors towards the commercialization of NGH as a total energy supply system have also included the establishment of an experimental facility for NGH production at the company's Chiba site.

David Tinsley

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 11,  Aug 2003

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