What’s a Q-Max?

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The Q-Max is a large liquefied natural gas tanker used by the Qatar Gas Transportation Company to deliver natural gas around the world. It is the largest vessel capable of berthing at LNG terminals and has a maximum capacity of 9,400,000 cubic feet of LNG. The ship has specially designed technology to minimize disruption to the marine environment and is equipped with efficient engines and state-of-the-art fire-fighting systems.

The Q-Max, also known as the Qatar Maximum, is a liquefied natural gas tanker that delivers natural gas to countries around the world. These massive vessels may be the largest sailing ships on the planet. The purpose-built technology used to build the ships provides the most economical means of transporting cargo while causing minimal disruption to the marine environment.

“Qatar” means the Qatar Gas Transportation Company that uses Q-Max ships for deliveries. “Maximum” means that the ship is the maximum size vessel capable of berthing at liquefied natural gas or LNG terminals. The company reports the ship measures 1,132 feet (345 meters) in length, which is longer than three football fields end-to-end. The ship is 177 feet (53.8 meters) wide and 114 feet (34.7 meters) tall from the bottom of the boat to the top of the mast. The height of the ship is comparable to that of a 20-story building. The ship travels at speeds of up to 19.5 knots or 0.4 miles per hour (0.7 kilometers per hour).

Inside the hull, the Q-Max contains five large cargo areas. Each area measures 157 feet (48 meters) wide, 91 feet (28 meters) high, and 190 feet (58 meters) long. Specially lined stainless steel/nickel alloy tanks contract and expand to accommodate the load. Each Q-Max ship can carry 9,400,000 cubic feet (266,000 cubic meters) of LNG. The company suggests that this amount of fuel is comparable to the amount required to power 70,000 US homes for one year. The largest ship before the Q-Max, the Q-Flex, had a maximum capacity of 7,633,283 cubic feet (217,000 cubic meters).

The hull of each ship has a special silicon coating, which improves the performance and speed of the ship, but also protects the marine environment from toxins. Each cargo tank also contains pipes leading to the liquefaction plant on deck. As the natural gas returns to a gaseous state, the system traps the gas, re-engages it, and returns the liquid to the cargo tank. Two low speed diesel engines, propellers and rudders run each Q-Max.

This type of engine is reportedly more thermally efficient and requires less fuel than older steam turbine engines. The ship supposedly requires 40% less power with 30% fewer emissions. The Q-Max also has specially designed backup generators, capable of operating the ship and systems in the event of mechanical failure. These LNG tankers are equipped with state-of-the-art fire-fighting systems that employ foam and fog water to fight fires without the need for carbon dioxide-based systems.

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