New class of ships taking ethane made from Texas shale gas to petrochemical plants in Europe

Fuel Fix:
Nearly 200 yards long, the first of the new fleet of so-called dragon-class ships have begun shipping ethane derived from Texas shale gas to feed Europe’s struggling petrochemical sector.

The United States’ shale gas revolution created an oversupply of ethane despite a bevy of new chemical plants built along the Gulf Coast. Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners teamed with Switzerland-based Ineos to ship a lot of that excess ethane to plants in Europe and Asia.

Enterprise built the world’s largest ethane export terminal in Morgan’s Point and Ineos commissioned the construction of eight, long-but-lean ethane cargo ships. They were built in China and sport narrow, flowing frames reminiscent of Chinese dragon imagery.

The first of the ships, the Ineos Intrepid, left the Houston Ship Channel on Sept. 1 with its maiden shipment, 265,000 barrels bound for Norway. In large lettering along its hull, the Intrepid touts “Shale gas for progress.”

Ineos also will carry ethane to its facilities in Grangemouth, Scotland.

“The dragon-class ships create a virtual pipeline across the Atlantic,” said Steve Lewandowski, a senior director for chemicals at the IHS Markit research firm, in a new report this week.

They’re designed long but thin so they can carry a lot of cargo but still squeeze into tight waterways. The engines can run on ethane as well.
Ethane is one of the building blocks of plastics,  The so called alternative energy supporters have no realistic alternative .  It is another reason why their goal of zero fossil fuels is unrealistic at this point.


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