CNG project snagged by election politics
A political move by the Norwegian centre/right government which profess to be proponents of maritime innovation and the main opposition party, the Labour party, appears to have got in the way of the interesting project for seaborne transport of PNG (pressurized natural gas) to supply Norway and later Sweden. The partners in the project are Knutsen OAS, Norske Shell and Haugaland Gass.
A majority of Norwegian MPs are lending financial support to a project
to pipe natural gas from Kårstøe in Western Norway and the
Grenland region in Telemark and to Mid-Norway around Trondheim.
The timescale of this project is a little vague, to say the least, and
it has put spanners in the works of Knutsen OAS. Scandinavian Shipping
Gazette wrote in January last year that the Knutsen PNG is deceptively
simple with a great deal of flexibility. Therefore, the project is likely
to go ahead. Per Lothe, project director at Knutsen OAS, is a little despondent
and surprised that the Norwegian government will provide funding for a
pipeline to compete with Knutsens own project.
So far, the neither the government nor the Grenland region has produced
firm cost figures for the pipeline project or any reliable timescale.
2005 is an election year in Norway, and the Labour party has pushed hard
to forward the idea of piping gas to the two regions to promote job creation.
Likely to go ahead
The 500-bottle version illustrated below has a gas capacity of 1.8 million
standard cubic metres, but there are designs for vessel up to 33 million
standard cubic metres. Compressed natural gas is pressurized up to 3,600
psig. In order to make PNG you need LNG with at least 90 per cent of methane.
This process is not very capital intensive and it purifies the gas. Tanks
are of stainless steel and insulated in order to transport LNG at minus
163 degrees Celsius. Main propulsion machinery is diesel electric and
using gas engines, fuelled by recovered, evaporated gas from the cargo.
The diesel engines are only used when the vessel is in ballast.
As usual the new technology has created a great deal more interest abroad
than in Norway. Not only is the PNG carrier tailor-made for distribution
of LNG, but the technology can be applied to unprocessed gas directly
from offshore fields anywhere in the world. For gas field, which are not
big enough to warrant a costly pipeline, it could mean the difference
between production and non-viability. There are a number of such fields
in the North Sea and elsewhere in the major offshore areas, and this technology
could add value by recovering the resources.
The distribution project
One suspect that the politicians have, inadvertently, delayed
the Knutsen project. It comes as no surprise that very few national politicians
have any detailed knowledge of the project and its potential. Maritime
innovation is nominally high on the governments agenda, but it appears
support depends on where the innovative ideas are coming from. The government
prefers innovation to be state managed through the new body Marut or to
emanate from government supported research bodies. It certainly narrows
the scope for innovation and lengthens the odds.
Latest update 18-10-2006 8:49