SCF’s LNG-fuelled Aframax tankers

In 2018 Sovcomflot started commercial and technical operation of the world's first large-capacity oil tankers using LNG as their primary fuel. Thus, a leading operator of Aframax tankers, in partnership with oil & gas and shipbuilding companies, initiated the conversion of a whole segment of the tanker market to a more efficient, "green" technology.

Nowadays the reduction of atmospheric emissions is one of the main issues on the agenda for shipowners and fleet operators around the world.  

Maritime transport is one of the pillars of international trade. More than 80% of all world trade cargoes and about 60% of foreign trade cargoes of the Russian Federation is transported by sea. The maritime transport is the environmentally safest mode of transport in terms of emissions per unit of cargo carried over a unit of distance. However, environmental standards for the shipping industry are getting tougher. In 2020 new requirements come into force which significantly limit the admissible level of sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gas emissions in the Baltic, North, and Mediterranean seas. These are the regions through which the main routes of Russian oil export shipments pass.

The expansion of environmental monitoring zones for the maritime transport and the growth in public expectations for reduction of man-made environmental impacts raise the issue of the need for diversification of marine fuel types and require from the shipping companies a considered compliance strategy depending on navigation zones. Its selection is complicated by the lack of a universal solution for all types of ships, all areas of the World Ocean, and different types of maritime transportation - line and tramp shipping, mass cargo transportation, passenger transportation.

As Russia’s largest shipping company and a world leader in maritime transportation of oil and gas in adverse climatic and ice conditions, Sovcomflot is completely placed within this global context. That is why one of our top priority tasks is to ensure full compliance of the fleet with both existing and prospective standards of international conventions.

In 2015, Sovcomflot specialists in collaboration with their colleagues from Shell set about to design the technical features of a series of new-generation large-capacity tankers. Sovcomflot was able to undertake such a step because it has its own engineering school, which has been persistently developed by SCF for many years. As a result, our company was one of the first in the shipping industry to start operating large-capacity tankers specially designed to run on an alternative fuel - liquefied natural gas.

Transition to LNG fuel is comparable in importance to the technological revolution which took place at the beginning of the 20th century when the world merchant fleet refused from using coal in favour of fuel oil and diesel oil. SCF's "green" tankers became an example of how a Russian company essentially set the tone for the technological development of a world shipping industry segment.

In mid-2018, SCF's new-generation Aframaxes entered the global energy shipping market. The lead ship in the series, Gagarin Prospect, was chartered to Shell in July. Just like Yuri Gagarin, SCF's tanker became a pioneer in her own field.

Since then, SCF took delivery of another five 'Green Funnel' tankers: Lomonosov ProspectMendeleev Prospect, Korolev Prospect, Vernadsky Prospect, and Samuel Prospect, named after Sir Marcus Samuel, the founder of Shell Transport and Trading Company. 

Each 114,000-dwt tanker has an ice class 1A hull, which enables these vessels to transport crude oil all year round in areas with difficult ice conditions, including subarctic seas.

At the present stage the ships of this series are operated in the Baltic and North seas. This is where Shell has started work to create an LNG bunkering infrastructure. The first LNG bunkering operation took place in the port of Rotterdam in October 2018. It became a real technological breakthrough and laid the foundation of a system for LNG bunkering of large-capacity vessels not tied to fixed routes or set timetables.

The advantages of LNG operation are most evident in figures: the reduction of sulphur oxides and black coal emissions reaches 100%, nitrogen oxides emissions decrease by 76%, and carbon dioxide emissions by 27% as compared with power plants running on conventional heavy fuel.

In 2019, Gagarin Prospect, the lead ship in the 'Green Funnel' series, won the international Marine Propulsion Award for Ship of the Year 2018 and Nor-Shipping Next Generation Ship Award 2019. In December 2018, SCF Group won a Lloyd's List Global Award-2018 in the Environmental Award – Individual Company category for its initiative to introduce LNG as a primary fuel for large-capacity tankers.

Sovcomflot actively contributes to commencing the domestic construction of LNG-fuelled tankers at the Zvezda shipbuilding complex in the Primorsky region of Russia's Far East. During the second half of 2018, Sovcomflot placed orders at Zvezda for five LNG-fuelled tankers, which will be time-chartered to Rosneft and Novatek once delivered.