POSCO is focusing on liquid natural gas (LNG)-powered vessels as global demand for these eco-friendly ships is expected to grow fast. The fuel tanks of these vessels are built with special steel as they store ultra-low temperature LNG.

POSCO expects the LNG fuel tank market to grow in earnest staring from 2021. So it is considering expanding the supply of 9 percent nickel steel and high manganese steel used for LNG fuel tanks.

Nine percent nickel steel is the most commonly used steel for production of LNG fuel tanks. It is characterized by excellent strength: It does not break even at minus 163 degrees Celsius.

POSCO has supplied 9 percent nickel steel products for the construction of the world’s first LNG-fueled bulk carriers (the Eco and the Green), which were built by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries. A christening ceremony for them was held at the company’s shipyard in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, on Dec. 11.

High manganese steel is also used for LNG fuel tanks. POSCO has developed high manganese steel on its own. High manganese steel is not much different from 9 percent nickel steel in terms of quality. But it has an advantage as manganese is cheaper than nickel and its reserves are more abundant. POSCO started research on high manganese steel in 2008 and completed the development of mass-production technology in 2013.

Originally, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) had allowed only four types of steel to be used for LNG fuel tanks — nickel alloy steel, stainless steel, nine percent nickel steel and aluminum alloys. But high manganese steel was added two years ago. In December 2017, POSCO supplied high manganese steel for the construction of the 50,000-ton Green Iris, the world’s largest LNG-fueled bulk carrier at the time.

The POSCO Research Institute predicts that the global market for LNG-fueled ships will grow from 20 trillion won in 2020 to 130 trillion won in 2025. It forecasts that 2,500 to 3,000 LNG-fueled ships will be ordered by 2029. It also predicts that 60 percent of the ships built in Korea will be LNG-fueled in 2030.

Source: Hellenic Shipping