Classification society ABS has granted approval in principle (AIP) to the conceptual design of carbon fiber LNG fuel tanks, inspired by techniques common in the space industry.
The new tanks are part of the SpaceTech4Sea project, which sees ABS, OceanFinance, and Cimarron Composites joining forces to adapt composite technologies developed for the space industry to LNG shipping.
Backed by €1m funding from the European Union, the project explores whether composite technology, which is lighter and more cost-effective, offers a competitive alternative in LNG as marine fuel designs, principally for short sea shipping.
ABS VP for global gas solutions Patrick Janssens said: “The potential of this technology to reduce barriers to the utilization of LNG as fuel for short sea shipping is significant. This composite technology has proven itself in other industries; we are committed to learning how to safely apply those lessons to benefit the maritime industries.”
Cimarron Composites CEO Tom Delay added: “This is an exciting opportunity for us to apply our aerospace heritage to a marine application. Reducing the mass of components is very important to both aerospace and marine applications.”
According to ABS, the joint team’s goal is creating tanks which will attract newbuildings and LNG as a marine fuel retrofits by cutting costs, reducing weight, and increasing vessels’ cargo capacity. The SpaceTech4Sea project focuses initially on high-speed vessels with small to medium tank capacities.
It offers weight savings of up to 80 percent over existing equivalent LNG tank designs, is not affected by corrosion, and also introduces space technology safety standards to marine operations.
ABS added that Attica Group, owner of Superfast Ferries, Blue Star Ferries, Hellenic Seaways, and AML, is following the SpaceTech4Sea with interest and is evaluating the technology for future projects.
“The AIP of the ultralight composite tanks for marine use constitutes a major factor in the design and increases the potential of using them both in retrofits and in new buildings of weight-sensitive LNG-fueled vessels,” said Costis Stamboulelis, executive management advisor for newbuildings and development at Attica.
While the tanks are currently made by hand, the project aims to adopt a highly automated production line to ensure a competitive pricing level.