First Yamal LNG cargo to head through Arctic to Asia departs

26 June 2018 18:10 Source:ICIS

LONDON (ICIS)--The first cargo from Russia’s 5.5mtpa Yamal LNG project to head through the Arctic Northern Sea Route to Asia has now set course, according to ship-tracking information from LNG Edge.

The 172,000cbm Vladimir Rusanov, an ice-breaking LNG tanker, left the Yamal LNG project port of Sabetta on 25 June and is now heading east through the Arctic, the latest position on LNG Edge showed on 26 June.

The ship is expected to reach the easternmost point of the northern route through the Arctic on 6 July. The website of the Northern Sea Route Administration, a Russian government body, says that the vessel will reach Cape Dezhnev, on the far east of Russia, on 6 July.

The Vladimir Rusanov is then likely to carry its cargo to an Asian LNG customer, possibly to a PetroChina terminal, with Chinese companies having been major investors in Yamal.

The route east through the Arctic can’t be used during the winter as the ice is too thick even for ice-breaking tankers. Since Yamal LNG started production in late 2017 all cargoes to date have instead headed west towards Europe. Some of the cargoes were delivered directly into European terminals. Others were taken to European ports and then switched onto non-ice breaker ships that then carried the cargoes on to destinations further afield, including Jordan, India and South Korea.

The Northern Sea Route cuts the time it takes a cargo to reach Asia to 15 days, according to Yamal project partner Total, compared with 30 days for a vessel heading west to Europe and then on to Asia via the Suez Canal.

Summer 2017 test run

LNG has been delivered through the Northern Sea Route before, but not from Yamal itself. The 172,000cbm Christophe de Margerie, another Yamal project ship, took a cargo from Norway’s Hammerfest LNG plant to Boryeong in South Korea during July/August 2017 to test the route.

That was the first unescorted LNG tanker to carry a cargo through the Northern Sea Route. Before that, one other LNG tanker had made the journey. The 150,000cbm Ob River took a Hammerfest cargo to Tobata in Japan through the Arctic corridor in November/December 2012. But on that voyage the ship was escorted by nuclear-powered icebreakers to clear its path.

China recently received its first cargo from Yamal LNG via the longer, European route, on 1 June, according to LNG Edge records. The 170,000cbm Pskov picked up a Yamal cargo in a transfer at the Belgian port of Zeebrugge then carried it east via the Suez Canal to Tianjin in China.

By Alex Froley