Two gas tankers built by the Sinopacific Offshore and Engineering were named on Tuesday, and will soon be shipping shale gas to Europe from the United States, officials said.
The ships will join an eventual eight-strong fleet of tankers operated by Swiss-headquartered petrochemical manufacturer Ineos Group Ltd, which will carry 800,000 tons of shale gas annually from the U.S. to its European manufacturing plants.
Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos' founder and chairman, said the $1 billion project will help revolutionize the European chemicals industry by reducing both feedstock and energy costs.
"Bringing U.S. shale gas to Europe is a huge undertaking, involving Ineos experts from across the globe. To see these two ships finally completed here in China means that this vast project will soon be fully operational."
Simon Liang, Sinopacific Offshore and Engineering's chairman and CEO, said more than 2,000 people had been involved in the building of the two "Dragon Class" ships, each of which required about one-million man hours of work.
The JS Ineos Insight and JS Ineos Ingenuity will join six other vessels in creating what the company described as a "virtue pipeline", to transport over 800,000 tons of gas a year at minus 90 degrees centigrade across the Atlantic to plants in Norway and Scotland.
Each ship will be the length of two soccer pitches and be able to carry over 27,500 cubic meters of liquefied gas. The first two ships will begin their maiden voyage this month.
"We have seen U.S. shale gas revolutionize U.S. manufacturing and we believe the completion of this project will help do the same for Europe," said Ratcliffe.
Sinopacific Offshore and Engineering is responsible for building the ships at its Qidong plant on the Yangtze River.
"The scale of the project is extraordinary," said Ratcliffe. "We are going to move more than 40,000 barrels of gas a day, every day of the year, for 15 years, from the U.S. to Europe."
Steffen Jacobsen, CEO of gas tanker operator Evergas, amongst the world's leading seaborne transporters of petrochemical gases and natural gas liquids through which Ineos ordered the eight ships, described the Sinopacific-built vessels as a world first on many levels.
He said China has become a shipbuilding leader over the past 20 years and that the building of the "Dragon Class" ships is the third cooperation between Evergas and Sinopacific.
"I've worked in the shipping business for 35 years. No one has ever tried to ship ethane in these quantities and over this distance before," he said.