QatarEnergy, Hudong-Zhonghua seal deal for giant LNG carriers

State-owned LNG giant QatarEnergy has signed a shipbuilding deal with China’s Hudong-Zhonghua for the construction of eight Q-Max LNG carriers as part of its shipbuilding program, according to shipbuilding sources.

The giant vessels will have a capacity of 271,000 cubic meters and are scheduled to be delivered in 2028 and 2029, shipbuilding sources told LNG Prime on Tuesday.

LNG Prime reported in September last year that QatarEnergy was looking to order Q-Max LNG carriers in China and South Korea.

The price tag of the new deal has not been revealed.

Regular LNG carriers in China are now priced at more than $235 million, and in South Korea at about $265 million.

However, the vessels previously ordered as part of the shipbuilding program in China and South Korea were booked below market prices.

These Q-Max vessels could be each worth more than $300 million.

QatarEnergy will now sign time charter parties with shipowners for these LNG carriers, the same as the firm did for the previous vessels which were ordered as part of the first phase of the shipbuilding program, the sources said.

Back in 2020, QatarEnergy entered into an agreement with Hudong-Zhonghua to reserve LNG ship construction capacity in China for its future LNG carrier fleet requirements, including for the North Field expansion projects.

In April 2022, QatarEnergy signed charter deals for four Hudong-Zhonghua LNG carriers with Japan’s MOL, completing the first batch of charter contracts awarded under its massive shipbuilding program.

After that, QatarEnergy signed charter deals with MOL for three new carriers, and five LNG carriers with a consortium of Japan’s NYK, K Line, Malaysia’s MISC, and China LNG Shipping.

Including these eight Q-Max carriers, Hudong-Zhonghua will build in total 20 LNG carriers as part of the shipbuilding program.

344 meters

In September last year, Hudong-Zhonghua received approvals in principle from classification societies for what it said is the world’s largest LNG carrier.

According to Hudong-Zhonghua, the 271,000-cbm 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.

Expansion

Currently, the world’s largest LNG carriers are Qatar’s Q-Max vessels which 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, and needs to secure shipping capacity for these projects.

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 126 Mtpa.

Besides the vessels at Hudong-Zhonghua, QatarEnergy also booked LNG carriers at South Korea’s Samsung Heavy, HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Hanwha Ocean.

Under the first phase, QatarEnergy contracted 60 LNG carriers at the four shipbuilders.

Last year, QatarEnergy also signed a deal for 17 LNG carriers with HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, kicking off the second phase of the shipbuilding program.

The contract is valued at about $3.9 billion.

This puts the price tag for a single vessel at about $229 million, much lower than the current average price for a newbuild LNG carrier in South Korea.

The Korean vessels that were ordered as part of the first phase of the shipbuilding program were priced at about $215 million.

QatarEnergy is expected to award more contracts under the shipbuilding program this year.

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