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C-01 Airships in the gas transportation trades

During the early seventies Shell International Gas (SIG) and Aerospace Developments Limited (ADL) set up a project to study the transportation of Natural Gas (NG) by airship from the Middle East to the UK. To compete with the alternative technology evolving at that time, which was liquefaction for transportation in ships under cryogenic conditions, the airships needed to be very large. The paper expands upon this background and gives reasons for the eventual termination of the project in favour of Liquefied Natural Gas schemes. In recent years construction of very large airships commenced. They are designed to carry heavy indivisible loads . Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV¹s) are being developed which approach the size of the airships in the original gas carrying concept. The paper considers the validity of the fiscal reasoning, which resulted in SIG/ADL project, in the light of the present day. It concludes that the economic drivers remain valid and changes in risk perception had added to the airship status as an alternative. The paper goes on to describe an LNG scheme comparing it to a notional system employing a SkyCat 1000 to carry NG. The advantages of the SkyCat solution are considered in terms of capex, opex and ease of operation linked to societal risk. An estimate of the cost structure which the SkyCat system would need to appear attractive over the now mature and successful LNG schemes , is made. The paper goes on to consider the longer term in the energy industries with particular attention to the use of Hydrogen as energy carrier of a future in which renewable resources replace fossil fuels. Further, the use of airships in the carriage of remotely sourced Helium is also proposed. Arguments used to promote the airship in these trades are that it has long experience of both Hydrogen and Helium containment whereas the current studies of bulk movements of liquid Hydrogen by ship are in their infancy with Heluim movements restricted to dewar flask technology.

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