Icebreaker LNG Ships to the North Slope?

As if all the feuding between Governor Palin’s AGIA/TransCanada gas pipeline and the ConocoPhillips/BP Denali gas pipeline wasn’t enough, Petroleum News reports that the American Bureau of Shipping has a joint initiative with the Russian Marine Register of Shipping to jointly develop ship classification rules for icebreaking LNG carriers.

Double-acting vessel designs, such as those developed by Aker Yards, could conceivably transport LNG form the North Slope, but they might have trouble with the shallow water. The arctic coastal plain is flat, and stays flat well offshore. As Petroleum News noted:

The biggest hurdle facing anyone wanting to ship LNG from the Beaufort Sea or Chukchi Sea coast would likely prove to be the water depths — the water remains shallow for a long way offshore around the Arctic coastline of Alaska.
A typical LNG tanker draws about 39 feet when loaded, Jim Craig, U.S. Minerals Management Service geologist and economic evaluator, told Petroleum News. Allowing normal safety margins for clearing the seafloor would require water depth of 78 feet in a dock and a channel depth of 117 to 156 feet for transiting to and from the LNG facility.
These requirements “would be an impediment for much of the Beaufort and Chukchi coastlines where these depths would not occur within five miles of land,” Craig said.

To get 78 feet of water, the dock facilities would have to be built off of one of the barrier islands, probably at least 5 miles offshore. The Red Dog Mine at Kivalina, which has similar shallow water issues, has a very long dock which loads shuttle barges to take the mine ore to the oceangoing bulk ore cargo carrier vessel further offshore.

Aker is already in the process of designing a double acting LNG carrier for use in Russia’s Yamal field in the Kara Sea, north of Siberia. And in May the American Bureau of Shipping said that it has teamed with BMT Fleet Technology and Hyundai Heavy Industries to investigate the structural integrity of various cargo containment systems under different ice impact scenarios.

According to an April report in MarineNorway, Russia plans to use as many as 25 LNG carriers to ship LNG from the giant Shtokman gas field in the ice-laden Barents Sea.

But the American Bureau of Shipping has said that there is no service history for the use of LNG carriers in ice-breaking conditions.

I wonder what the polar bears think about having icebreaking LNG ships wandering around the arctic?

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