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Gazprom Ships its First Cargo of LNG to China Via Arctic Waters

Author: Exports News
Sep 12, 2023
2 min read
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Sep 12, 2023
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Gas shipping, Exports News updates

Gazprom, Russia's state energy behemoth, has embarked on a significant journey, mirroring the delivery path previously utilized by Russian natural gas producer Novatek, by shipping its inaugural LNG cargo to China through the Arctic waters of Russia.

In January, Gazprom marked a milestone with the inauguration of its LNG liquefaction facility, situated on the Baltic coast of Russia, approximately 100 miles northwest of St. Petersburg. This achievement at the Portovaya LNG plant is noteworthy because it was accomplished independently, sans assistance from German industrial partner Linde, who withdrew last year due to European Union sanctions. The Portovaya LNG plant receives gas from the Portovaya compressor station, originally established to support the now-defunct Nord Stream pipeline system.

The LNG plant commenced operations in September of the previous year and has been routinely transporting cargoes via traditional routes. However, in a departure from the norm, in August, the LNG carrier Velikiy Novgorod departed Portovaya, venturing northward towards the Barents Sea, rather than its customary southern European route. Gazprom proudly announced the successful completion of Velikiy Novgorod's Northern Sea Route (NSR) transit, culminating in its arrival at China's Tangshan LNG import terminal in Hebei Province.

Velikiy Novgorod was purposefully constructed to navigate the icy Baltic waters, boasting an Ice2 classification, which is roughly analogous to Lloyd's 1C, signifying an ice-classed vessel but with lesser icebreaking capabilities compared to Arc7 icebreaking LNG carriers designed for unescorted operation on the NSR.

The NSR's eastern stretch is characterized by frigid winters necessitating heavy icebreaker escorts for safe passage. During the summer, receding ice allows for a limited amount of merchant traffic. Notably, this year's ice cover has been unusually minimal, prompting a surge in Russian maritime activities along the route. Noteworthy milestones include the inaugural transit of a standard Capesize bulker and the first passage of a non-ice-class Aframax tanker, a move met with some reservations by Western observers due to spill risks, although it has received official approval.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has underscored the importance of augmenting traffic along Russia's Northern Sea Route (NSR), with a particular emphasis on establishing year-round navigation. Currently handling around 35 million tonnes of cargo annually, Putin envisions elevating this figure to 200 million tonnes by the year 2031.

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