SINGAPORE—A Q-Flex LNG tanker has completed a transit through the Panama Canal for the first time, becoming the largest LNG vessel by cargo capacity to do so, charterer of the vessel Qatargas said late on May 13.
The Al Safliyah, which can carry about 210,000 cubic meters of LNG, has successfully completed the 82-km transit on May 12, the company said. Qatargas is the world’s largest LNG producer, with an annual production capacity of 77 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).
It comes after the canal was expanded in mid-2018 to handle larger oil and gas tankers.
“Qatar is committed to enhancing the depth and flexibility of our global LNG supply portfolio even further, and this milestone achievement will undoubtedly lead to future business opportunities,” said Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, minister of state for energy affairs in Qatar and the president and CEO of Qatar Petroleum.
A Q-Flex LNG tanker, which is the world’s second-largest class of LNG carriers, can carry up to 50% more volumes than conventional LNG tankers, and are typically used by Qatargas to export its LNG to Europe or Asia.
The biggest LNG carriers, known as Q-Max, are able to carry up to 266,000 cubic meters of LNG, but are too large to use the canal.
Qatargas said that the successful transit of this vessel through the Panama Canal means that it creates future triangulation opportunities for the 31 Qatari Q-Flex vessels, allowing them to discharge cargoes in the Pacific Basin and then proceed to the Atlantic basin to load their next cargo.
With the long-term contract model fading, LNG’s success as a commodity will rely on providers’ ability to put the product on the water as cheaply as possible.
Royal Dutch Shell on June 10 shipped the long-awaited first cargo of LNG from its Prelude floating LNG plant off northwest Australia, sealing Australia's position as the world's top LNG exporter.
The move comes as crude exports from the U.S. Gulf Coast region are booming, spurred by production growth in the prolific Permian Basin.