Wood working04.12.2017

New markets in Asia for birch plywood – plywood needed by the shipload for LNG tankers

Illustration of an insulation box made from birch plywood for LNG tankers.

Illustration of an insulation box made from birch plywood for LNG tankers.

Koskisen’s birch plywood has just passed stringent tests and quality requirements, thanks to which the product has been approved by Gaz Transport & Technigaz (GTT) for sale and use in NO96-type tankers transporting liquefied natural gas. The certification guarantees even broader markets for Koskisen’s birch plywood. Approximately 3,000 m3 of birch plywood is needed for the insulation boxes in one tanker – that amounts to almost 100 shipping containers, as the insulation boxes in one tanker can contain as many as 1.5 million plywood components.

Natural gas is a diverse energy source and is increasingly being used in energy production, transport, industry and heating and cooking. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a natural gas that has been converted to liquid form and which can be transported in specially manufactured LNG tankers even for long distances. When liquefied, natural gas is condensed 600 times in volume, making it possible to deliver natural gas without the need to build pipelines and pumping stations. This feature makes LNG an easier-to-sell commodity, similar to oil. In normal air pressure, natural gas will remain liquid at temperatures less than ‑163 °C. For that reason, LNG transport requires specially built, well-insulated tankers, as well as special insulation boxes built especially for the purpose. The increased use of natural gas has also increased LNG transports. 

Koskisen has decades of experience manufacturing technical birch plywood

High-strength birch plywood is used as insulation board in LNG tankers.

High-strength birch plywood is used as insulation board in LNG tankers.

Koskisen has been manufacturing birch plywood as an insulation material for LNG tankers since the 1970s. Back then, LNG tankers were also made in Europe. Nowadays, most tankers are made in Asian shipyards, in South Korea and China. There are currently fewer than ten suppliers of LNG insulation boxes. Birch plywood is a durable material that retains its properties even in demanding conditions. According to Timo Linna, Head of Product Management and R&D at Koskisen, plywood lasts as long as a tanker’s entire useful life, i.e. for decades.

“Consumption of LNG, and thus also its transportation by sea, has increased in recent years. There is room in the markets for our high-quality, certified product,” says Linna. “Our plywoods are known for their high quality, and LNG plywood fits nicely in Koskisen’s portfolio,” he adds.

“Our quality control has, for many years now, been based on the needs of our broad customer segment, and this recent LNG certification is a natural part of our other product- or customer-specific type approvals,” says Anna-Maaret Roppola, Head of Procurement and Quality for Koskisen Oy’s Panel Industry. “Koskisen’s clear strength is its expert, committed and responsible personnel at the mill. For us, managing the requirements of various products is a matter of course,” she sums up.