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Composite Technology Designed for Space Receives ABS Design Approval

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Published Jun 29, 2021 11:56 AM by The Maritime Executive

A pioneering project to adapt technology developed for use in space to maritime LNG fuel tanks has received design approval from ABS.

It’s a key milestone in the SpaceTech4Sea project, which sees ABS, OceanFinance and Cimarron Composites joining forces to adapt composite technologies developed for the space industry to shipping.

The project, which is supported by €1m funding from the European Union, explores whether composite technology, which is lighter and potentially more cost-effective, offers a competitive alternative to marine LNG fuel tanks, principally for small, short sea shipping applications where weight is an issue. ABS Design Approval means the next step is a physical vessel installation of the technology which had previously received Approval in Principle from ABS in September 2019.

“We have been excited about the potential of this technology to reduce barriers to the utilization of LNG as fuel for some time and now it has further underlined that potential by meeting a series of exacting standards. The next challenge is to support its safe application on a vessel,” said Patrick Ryan, ABS Senior Vice President, Global Engineering and Technology.

“I see this as an exciting opportunity to apply aerospace technology to efforts to improve the environment here on earth. New technology developments often go both directions. The maturity of this technology in maritime applications may uncover developments that help with aerospace applications for high altitude drones or in-space fuel depots. Some new rocket propulsion concepts use liquid methane as a fuel. The advances in liquid methane transport can serve as a steppingstone toward liquid hydrogen transport. I am very excited about working with my partners in the innovative project,” said Tom DeLay, Cimarron’s, Owner/CEO.

“LNG as marine fuel will face a rapid expansion in the very near future. In the EU particularly, the combination of development of an adequate number of refueling points and the availability of funding resources, e.g., EU Recovery Fund, are expected to attract a lot of interest for LNG-propelled projects and we are ready to offer this game-changing product,” said Ocean Finance CEO, Dr. Panayotis Zacharioudakis.

The team’s goal is creating ultra-lightweight LNG fuel tanks which will attract both new buildings and LNG fuel retrofits by cutting costs, reducing weight and increasing vessels’ capacity. Although the technology can have a wide range of applications, the SpaceTech4Sea project focuses initially on high-speed vessels with small LNG fuel tank capacities. It offers weight savings of up to 80 percent over existing equivalent LNG tank designs, is not affected by corrosion, and also introduces space technology safety standards to marine operations.

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