Russian Arctic port Sabetta dispatches first LNG

Sabetta first LNG
Christophe de Margerie loading at Sabetta. Source: Sovcomflot

Over the past week-end, the first two LNG tankers – Russian Sovcomflot’s Christophe de Margerie and Greek Dynagas’ Boris Vilkitsky – were loaded at the port of Sabetta with the first cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced at the Yamal LNG plant and set off eastward heading towards the markets in Asia.

Our first article of 2017 was dedicated to the unique port project that Russia has been developing in extreme weather conditions above the Arctic Circle with temperatures of -50°C and the coastline covered with ice for up to 9 months. Sabetta is a new seaport on the eastern coast of the Yamal Peninsula in the Ob Bay constructed within the Yamal LNG project of the Russian gas company Novatek (50.1%), the French Total (20%), China National Petroleum Corporation (20%) and Silk Road Fund (9.9%). The project involves the construction of the LNG plant, the port and airport in Sabetta town. The LNG plant will have an annual capacity of 16.5 mln tons of LNG and up to 1.2 mln tons of gas condensate from the resources of the South Tambey Field, which will be shipped to Asia and Europe along the Northern Sea Route all year round.

And now that the year is coming to its end, Port.Today is happy to report on the progress of this project. On 8 December 2017, the Russian President Vladimir Putin officially launched the loading of the first LNG tanker at the Sabetta terminal, informs TASS Russian news agency. The first cargo lot from the Yamal LNG plant was loaded on the icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie, owned by the Russian shipping company Sovcomflot, one of the world’s leaders specialising in the transportation of crude oil, petroleum products, and liquefied gas. Apart from Vladimir Putin, the ceremony was attended by Russia’s Minister of Transport Maxim Sokolov, other ministers and officials, as well as Chairman & CEO of Novatek Leonid Mikhelson, President & CEO of Sovcomflot Sergey Frank and representatives from Total, CNPC and Silk Road Fund.

According to Sovcomflot, Christophe de Margerie is the first in a series of 15 icebreaking LNG carriers ordered for the Yamal LNG project, to transport LNG year-round in the challenging ice conditions of the Kara Sea and Gulf of Ob. Christophe de Margerie opens a new class of vessels – Yamalmax. The 299m-long vessel has a capacity of 172,600 cbm, is managed by the all-Russian crew of 29 and is capable of sailing independently through ice of up to 2.1m thick. Possessing the Arc7 ice class, the highest amongst existing merchant vessels, Christophe de Margerie can sail unassisted along the Northern Sea Route westward from Yamal all year-round and eastward for 6 months of the year (from July to December) to the Asia Pacific ports. Previously, the summer navigation window in the eastern area of the Northern Sea Route was limited to only 4 months with icebreaker support.

Chairman & CEO of Novatek Leonid Mikhelson said at the ceremony that the Yamal LNG plant will start regular deliveries under major long-term contracts in April, 2018. “We said earlier that 96% of LNG produced at the plant had been contracted. The supplies will begin next April. Everything which is produced before are early deliveries that will us bring additional revenues,” commented Leonid Mikhelson. He also said that Japan may buy about 40% of all the gas produced at the Yamal LNG plant.

Surprisingly, no source provides the exact destination of the historical first shipment of LNG. Leonid Mikhelson vaguely commented that Christophe de Margerie will sail to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, most likely to China. The buyer of its cargo lot was Novatek Gas and Power, a trading subsidiary of Novatek.

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