QatarEnergy eyes orders for giant LNG carriers

State-owned LNG giant QatarEnergy is planning a major order of Q-Max LNG carriers at yards in South Korea and China, according to shipbuilding sources.

Sources told LNG Prime on Tuesday that QatarEnergy is looking to order about 15 Q-Max LNG carriers at yards in Korea and China.

These deals could be finalized by the end of this year, the sources said.

The orders could be potentially worth billions of dollars as one 174,000 cbm newbuild LNG carrier is currently worth about $260 million in South Korea and about $235 million in China.

Currently, the world’s largest LNG carriers are Qatar’s Q-Max vessels that are about 345 meters long and have a capacity of 263,000-266,000 cbm.

Qatar’s Nakilat owns 14 Q-Max LNG carriers built by Hanwha Ocean (DSME) and Samsung Heavy between 2008 and 2010, and they all transport LNG from the giant Ras Laffan LNG complex in Qatar to customers around the globe.

QatarEnergy LNG, previously known as Qatargas, currently operates 14 LNG production trains with a capacity of about 77 Mtpa in Ras Laffan.

However, QatarEnergy is significantly increasing its LNG production from the North Field.

This first phase of the North Field expansion project will increase Qatar’s LNG production capacity from 77 to 110 Mtpa, while the second phase will further boost capacity to total 126 Mtpa.

To secure shipping capacity, QatarEnergy reserved slots back in 2020 with three Korean shipyards, including Samsung Heavy, HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Hanwha Ocean, and China’s Hudong-Zhonghua.

Subsequently, in 2022, QatarEnergy signed multiple time charter parties with various shipowners.

Including orders at South Korea’s three shipbuilders and Hudong-Zhonghua, QatarEnergy said it concluded construction contracts and long-term time charter agreements for 60 LNG carriers last year.

QatarEnergy expects the number to grow to more than 100 LNG carriers in the future and the firm is expected to start awarding new contracts as part of the second phase of the shipbuilding program this year.

The second phase could include the construction of up to 40 ships but the total number of vessels remains unclear.

The Q-Max vessels are part of the third phase of the giant shipbuilding program, the sources said.

They would mainly serve long-term deals tied to QatarEnergy’s North Field expansion projects, including with customers from China, the sources said.

Hudong-Zhonghua recently received approvals in principle from classification societies for what it says is the world’s largest LNG carrier.

According to the Chinese shipbuilder, the LNG carrier is 344 meters long, 53.6 meters wide, and has a design draft of 12 meters.

It features dual-fuel propulsion, a reliquefaction system, an air lubrication system, and GTT’s NO96 Super+ containment tech. The vessel has five storage tanks.

Despite its size, the vessel would be able to dock at more than 70 LNG terminals along the main trade route, the shipbuilder said.

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