February 1977 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News

Newport News Launches First Commercial Ship In Eight Years—LNG Carrier El Paso Southern

The nation's foremost builder of Navy nuclear warships launched on January 22, 1977, its first commercial vessel in nearly eight years.

Tenneco's Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va., launched the 125,000-cubic-meter liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier, El Paso Southern, from its recently completed Commercial Yard. The richly colored orange and brown vessel has the capacity to carry enough natural gas to meet the needs of a city of 34,000 people for a full year.

In remarks preceding the launching, shipyard president Ralph W. Cousins said: "This company supports in the strongest possible way the need for a strong Navy, and we're glad that we can build the kind of ships our Navy needs, but it makes no sense to build a Navy to ensure commerce can move freely on the high seas in times of international crisis if there aren't any U.S. merchant ships you can depend on to carry that cargo—to carry the oil and gas we need so desperately." El Paso Southern, named for the Southern Natural Gas Company, is the first of three LNG carriers Newport News Shipbuilding will deliver to El Paso Natural Gas Company. With the length of 948.5 feet, a beam of 135 feet and a service speed of 18.5 knots, each ship will carry the equivalent of 2.6 billion cubic feet of gas at —260 degrees Fahrenheit. The extreme cold reduces 630 cubic feet of gas to one cubic foot of liquid.

Maintaining that temperature calls for ultra-sophisticated cargo containment systems. El Paso Southern is being outfitted with a stainless steel waffle membrane containment, developed by the French firms Gazocean and Technigaz.

The liquefied gas is to be shipped from Arzew, Algeria, to Cove Point, Md., and Savannah, Ga., where it will be regasified and piped to industrial and residential consumers in the Middle Atlantic and Southeastern states.

The launching of El Paso Southern was presided over by Mrs.

Jan Diesel, wife of the shipyard's chairman and chief executive officer, John P. Diesel.

Newport News signed the $303.2-million contract for the three LNG carriers on September 30, 1972, and delivery is scheduled for 1977 and 1978. The keel of El Paso Southern was laid on November 8, 1975.

The launching took place at the shipyard's newly completed 150-acre Commercial Yard in its 1,600-foot graving dock, the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

The yard also boasts a 900-ton gantry crane and an 11-acre allweather steel production center, with a capacity of processing 200,000 tons of steel annually.

Currently, the center is constructing units for the other LNG carriers and for three ultra large crude-oil carriers (ULCCs) also under contract.

The 1,600-foot graving dock, site of the launch, is large enough to accommodate one-and-a-half ships. While the El Paso Southern was being prepared for launch, progress was continuing on the second LNG carrier, El Paso Arzew, now 465 feet in length.

Now that El Paso Southern has been launched, El Paso Arzew will be moved into its place and the third keel for the last LNG carrier in the current contract, El Paso Gamma, will be laid.

Other stories from February 1977 issue


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