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LNG tanks made of high-strength nickel steel: East Asia hits the gas

LNG tanks made of high-strength nickel steel: East Asia hits the gas

Shipyard workers in Shanghai can hardly complain about lack of work. They now have to manufacture 13 LNG tankers, each one 300 meters long and capable of holding up to 174,000 cubic meters of natural gas. The shipyards of Japan, China, and South Korea, too, are filled with dozens of ships destined to meet Asia’s energy needs by transporting natural gas from all over the world. These tankers are difficult to build. In order to transport natural gas in a space-saving manner, it has to be frozen to minus 160 degrees Celsius and liquefied into liquefied natural gas (LNG). But temperatures as cold as this put a severe strain on the material. Normal steel would quickly become brittle and might break. That is why sheet with a high nickel content (nine percent) is used, which is significantly tougher.

It is very difficult to produce from a technical standpoint; the surface is prone to rapid scaling, i.e. an undesired iron oxide layer may form. In addition, the material must be tempered in accordance with strict ­temperature ­requirements in order to yield a material with the properties described above. “Very few manufacturers are capable of producing this kind of nickel steel,” says Chris Van Beurden, Head of Export Sales at ­thyssenkrupp’s Heavy Plate unit. “It is one of our top products.”

But the material is in demand for more than just liquefied gas transport. In the future, more and more cruise ships will be using LNG as fuel, rather than environmentally damaging marine diesel. thyssenkrupp Steel’s tank expertise is as popular with shipyards as it is with extraction companies. Special containers are being created in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for crude oil that still contains a large percentage of highly corrosive sour gas. Extremely resilient sheet from Duisburg is used for these containers, too. (fh)

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