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Bloomberg: Asian LNG Terminals Expand for World’s Biggest Ships (Update2)

By Dinakar Sethuraman and Yuji Okada

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) — Asian utilities led by Korea Gas Corp., the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas buyer, are expanding import terminals to receive the world’s biggest tankers and meet soaring demand for the fuel.

Korea Gas’s terminals at Incheon and Pyongtaek are ready to receive the new Q-Flex and Q-Max ships, investor relations manager I.K. Kim said yesterday by phone from Seongnam, South Korea. Tokyo Electric Power Co. will complete a study by April 2008 to upgrade the Futtsu terminal, spokesman Daiki Ohashi said.

At least 10 other Asian terminals are being adapted after Qatar, the world’s largest LNG producer, ordered 45 of the bigger tankers from South Korean shipyards. The vessels carry more than 200,000 cubic meters each, against 145,000 on standard tankers. They are as long as 345 meters, about three football fields, or 20 percent more than a typical carrier.

“We had to rush through the expansion project because suppliers tend to use larger carriers at new LNG projects,” Chubu Electric Power Co.’s spokesman Hirotaka Iwase said. Chubu Electric is expanding berths by 2010 at the Chita and Kawagoe LNG terminals in Ise bay in central Japan.

India’s Petronet LNG Ltd. may be ready for larger tankers by 2010, Managing Director Prosad Dasgupta said on Dec. 4.

CPC Corp., Taiwan’s only LNG importer, is studying the possibility of upgrading the Yongan LNG terminal in southern Taiwan to receive larger-sized vessels, company spokeswoman Jessica Tang said by phone from Taiwan today. A 25-year contract with Qatar for as much as 3 million tons a year of the fuel will start in 2008, the company’s Web site said.

North Field

Qatar and partners Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and ConocoPhillips are building the world’s biggest LNG production lines to lower output costs in the Middle East nation. The ventures are tapping the North Field, which extends into neighboring Iran, where it is known as South Pars, comprising the world’s biggest single natural gas deposit.

By January 2008, Korean shipbuilders are scheduled to deliver eight Q-Flex tankers capable of carrying a maximum 216,000 cubic meters each, Russell Barling, a spokesman for Lloyd’s Register, which inspects and certifies ships, said in an e-mail on Nov. 26. Each Q-Flex cargo is enough to power South Korean households for two days.

Qatargas named its first Q-Flex vessel Tembek at a Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea, Qatargas said in a statement dated Sept. 11 on its Web site.

Q-Max

In 2008, the Korean shipbuilders will start delivering the new, larger Q-Max class vessel, capable of carrying 266,000 cubic meters. The ships are powered by twin propellers instead of the single propeller on existing models.

At import and export facilities, the LNG vessels need a larger turning radius, longer berth and bigger storage and loading facilities, Rob Tustin, technical manager at Lloyd’s Register Asia, said Nov. 26.

The Q-Max tankers may cost as much as $300 million each and carry a unit to capture and liquefy gases that escape from the storage tanks during the journey. On older models, about 0.14 percent of the LNG escapes every day in gaseous form because of vibrations, Kopernicki said.

Buyers who will be ready to receive the Q-Flex and Q-Max tankers within five years include Tohoku Electric Power Co. at Niigata, Tokyo Electric at Futtsu, Tokyo Gas Co. at Ohgishima, Chubu Electric at Chita, Osaka Gas at Senboku and Korea Gas at Tongyeong, Jan Kopernicki, vice president of shipping at Shell International Trading & Shipping Co., said last month.

China National Offshore Oil Corp.’s Guangdong Dapeng LNG terminal may be able to receive 210,000 cubic meter tankers next year after upgrading, a company official said.

Tokyo Bay

Tokyo Gas’s Ohgishima import terminal in Tokyo Bay can receive a Q-flex ship without conducting any upgrading work, spokesman Nozomi Sakamoto said. The Ohgishima terminal has 3 LNG storage tanks with a combined capacity of 600,000 kiloliters.

Osaka Gas, Japan’s second-largest distributor of the fuel, may “retrofit” the Senboku LNG import terminals in Osaka Bay to allow it to receive Q-flex tankers, spokesman Tatsuro Honya said. The terminal has 22 LNG storage tanks that can hold 1.77 million kiloliters.

The Dahej LNG terminal in India may be ready to receive the larger tankers after building a second jetty in 2010, Petronet’s Dasgupta said by telephone from New Delhi.

Japan’s Coast Guard has given approval to Tohoku Electric to receive the first Q-Flex tanker this month, Shin Hosaka, director of the trade ministry’s petroleum and natural gas division, said last month. The coast guard plans to permit other utilities, including Chubu Electric, to receive the vessels in Tokyo Bay and Ise Bay.

Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. have led construction of larger-sized LNG carriers.

Last Updated: December 7, 2007 02:22 EST

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