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KOGAS Ready for the Big Time

Research, development, and expansion in LNG could be the ticket...

Korea Gas Corp. (KOGAS) has announced it will collaborate with major South Korean shipbuilders to develop technologies for building cargo containment systems to be used by liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers.

The companies to participate in the project are Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co. , Samsung Heavy Industries Co. and Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., the South Korean gas monopoly said in a press release.

The project is one of the five major research areas KOGAS disclosed as part of its long-term strategy to become "the world's top energy company." The consortium will invest 16 billion won (US$13.5 million) over the next three years to develop the nation's own model of cargo containment system for LNG carriers, according to KOGAS.

The cargo containment system, which is fitted inside the tanks on carriers, is the core element in transporting LNG, which has to be stored at minus 163 degrees celius. Gaz Transport & Technigaz (GTT) of France holds a virtual monopoly in the world market, with over 70 per cent of all LNG vessels using one of the two membrane cargo containment systems developed by the French company.

KOGAS plans to apply a similar membrane technology to developing a cargo containment system for LNG carriers. It has already succeeded in developing a similar technology for LNG tanks for overland routes, according to the corporation. "The success of the project will result in saving nearly 60 billion won in costs normally associated with using other countries' technology," KOGAS said in the press release. "Local shipbuilders will also be able to double the amount of orders they secure in the global shipbuilding market due to decreases in production costs and time."

If successful, the project will also help South Korea's entry into other related areas, including the development of LNG regasification vessels, it added. As of October last year, 36 out of 61 LNG carriers being built worldwide were handled by South Korean shipbuilders, according to KOGAS. The gas corporation forecast the number of LNG carriers operating worldwide will surge to 100 by 2010.