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Ocean-going tanker builders don’t stage glittering public shows like car makers, but if they did Shell’s design for a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker might draw admiring crowds.

The ship design – currently at the concept stage – owes its head-turning lines to the quest for greater fuel efficiency, which leads to lower emissions. It’s an evolution in the design of LNG carriers, of which Shell is one of the world’s largest operators.

The design philosophy adopted enables the ship to carry as much LNG as the largest vessels available today with potentially 20% greater efficiency.

Current ships are efficient when fully loaded in relatively calm seas. But seas often aren’t calm and ships spend half their lives unloaded on a return run, with tanks full of sea water ballast for stability.

Moving all that water burns a lot of fuel. Shell designers decided to start afresh to achieve the greatest efficiency for the whole round trip.

Computer simulations helped designers sculpt hulls to better cut through waves, relocate tanks and crew quarters to aid streamlining, and design propulsion systems to perform in various conditions.

Engineers are also exploring other possible ways to boost efficiency, including waste-heat recovery, novel lightweight materials, fuel cells and renewable technologies.

Shell is not planning to build this concept but the ideas, technologies and design methods used in creating it are already shaping the company’s approach in considering future charters.

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