South Korea-based shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) has delivered the world’s first very large ethane carrier (VLEC), Ethane Crystal, to India’s Reliance Industries.

Classed by global classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Ethane Crystal has a cargo carrying capacity of 87,000m³.

ABS will provide classification service to five more VLECs, which will be delivered next year.

"Delivering the Ethane Crystal is truly a landmark achievement that has created an entirely new market of shipping liquefied ethane."

Suitable for transporting cargoes including ethane and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), Ethane Crystal has been built with a specially designed GTT Mark III membrane cargo containment system.

Similar in size to very large gas carrier (VLGC), the newly delivered vessel will allow shipping of large-scale ethane in a cheaper way.

ABS chairman president and CEO Christopher Wiernicki said: “Delivering the Ethane Crystal is truly a landmark achievement that has created an entirely new market of shipping liquefied ethane.

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“It is a testament to all stakeholders involved in bringing the project to fruition.”

Ethane Crystal will be used for trade routes between North America and India and will carry ethane that will be used as feedstock for petrochemical production in India.

The surplus of ethane produced and its use as a byproduct of shale oil and gas in North America has recently increased the demand for VLEC.

ABS noted that it had classed the world’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier conversion, Methane Pioneer, in 1959, and the first newbuild LNG carrier, Methane Princess, in 1964.

In 2013, ABS launched its global gas solutions team to support gas-related projects of the shipping industry.

Last month, National trade association American Waterways Operators (AWO) approved an audit of its Responsible Carrier Programme (RCP) by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).

Image: The world’s first very large ethane carrier, Ethane Crystal. Photo: courtesy of ABS.