A massive energy project in the Arctic Circle has seen a unique class of Polar Class 3 heavy transport vessels designed, built and enter service to meet a schedule some regarded as impossible
At US$27 billion, the Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is a massive one by anybody’s standards, but the fact that it is above the Arctic Circle only makes it more remarkable. Located at Sabetta on the Yamal Peninsula in northern Russia, the new facility will produce and export Russian LNG from vast reserves in the Russian Arctic to Europe and Asia with transport via the Northern Sea Route. Yamal LNG is due to export its first LNG exports to Asian Markets in 2017.
But how to build the facility in the first place? Doing so would require huge amounts of equipment to be transported to the Yamal Peninsula. To do so, Yamal LNG turned to ZPMC-Red Box Energy Services, a shipowning company founded by a group of 14 marine heavy-transport professionals with extensive experience in energy logistics services. As Phil Adkins, the company’s chief executive explained, modularisation has become the preferred engineering and construction technique for LNG liquefaction projects. Typically, one 5.5-tonne ‘liquefaction train’ consists of approximately 50 modules, ranging in size from 500 tonnes to 10,000 tonnes. Modules can be as large as 80m x 40m x 30m and are fabricated for the most part in East Asia – where the construction costs are more competitive than in Europe, North America or Australia – and then transported using specialised marine heavy-lift vessels, which is where Red Box Energy comes in with two Polar-class deck carriers it built against a very tight schedule to transport LNG modules to the Yamal Peninsula.
The vessels needed to be capable of year-round navigation in Arctic waters, sailing in ice 1.5m thick, and able to make 2 knots in ice. They would also need to be winterised up to -40°C and would need to meet the requirements of ice-class ARC-7 notation. In terms of module transportation capability, they would need to be able to load, transport and discharge two modules weighing 10,000 tonnes each and have an obstacle-free deck area for unrestricted side and stern load-outs. However, technical requirements aside, Red Box Energy would need to be able to meet a client deadline requirement of 24 months for design, construction and delivery – which it did.
With a length overall of 206.3m, length between perpendiculars of 193.8m and moulded breadth of 43m, the vessels have a depth (moulded) of 13.5m, design draught of 7.5m, ice draft of 8m and deadweight of 28,500 tonnes. The deck area extends to approximately 175m x 43m. At the heart of the electric system propulsion for the vessels are generators, switchboards, transformers, converters, 12 megawatt (MW) synchronous motors, a power management system and the integrated monitoring alarm and control system from Siemens.
As Siemens points out, when operating in the Arctic, the biggest challenge for the propulsion system on the heavy transporters is the enormous torque from the propeller when it runs into ice. With a total output of 12MW and weighing 140 tonnes, the ship’s motors are capable of withstanding the poor navigation conditions prevailing in the Polar region. Another key feature of the newbuilds is the fully redundant ‘smart’ ballast water management system. The approach to winterisation adopted for the vessels includes cargo deck heating with more than 25km of CuNiFer steam-heated pipes below deck. The vessel is fully winterised to -50°C and cargo operations are winterised to -40°C. The wheelhouse has also been especially designed for operations in the Arctic and for optimised visibility, with all-round visibility blocked only by the funnels.
Audax, the first of class, completed sea trials in early January 2016, followed by the second ship, Pugnax, delivered in March 2016.