Sinopec and ENN Natural Gas have joined the list of energy companies jostling for scarce LNG carrier newbuilding berths, with separate tenders for a total of 15 vessels.

Shipping sources told TradeWinds that Sinopec has launched a request for offers to build nine large LNG carriers, while Hong Kong-listed independent ENN is seeking four firm ships plus options for an additional two vessels.

Both are said to be seeking units of around 175,000 cbm to be delivered from 2026.

Sources said the two companies are adopting different approaches.

ENN is understood to have contacted domestic and overseas shipyards for the six vessels.

“ENN will reserve the LNG carrier berths at the shipyards and then pick the owners to order the vessels,” said a shipbuilding source.

In contrast, state-owned Sinopec is believed to have approached Chinese and foreign shipowners that may be interested in supplying the vessels.

Selected owners will then need to “hunt for the shipyards and order the newbuildings”, sources said.

Sinopec is also said to be open to taking ownership stakes in the vessels.

Those following the business pointed to shipping giants Cosco Shipping Energy Transportation, China Merchants Energy Shipping (CMES) and CSSC Leasing — an arm of China State Shipbuilding Corp — as the domestic entities that will participate in the two tenders.

“CMES has four LNG carrier newbuildings on order at Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co and these vessels are still charter-free. We think it may offer them to Sinopec or ENN,” one source said, adding that Japanese owners will also bid for the projects.

Sinopec needs the nine ships to transport the LNG it signed up for last year in something of a rush on term contracts by Chinese buyers.

The Chinese petrochemical giant signed a contract with US producer Venture Global LNG to buy 4 million tonnes per annum over 20 years.

Sources said 2.8m tonnes of this has been secured on a free on board (FOB) basis, which will require eight to 10 LNG carriers to ship.

The volumes will be supplied from Venture Global’s Plaquemines LNG plant in Louisiana, which is scheduled to be online in 2024.

ENN has also reached several LNG sale-and-purchase agreements in recent months.

In March, it signed up with Energy Transfer LNG Export, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer, to buy 2.7mtpa on an FOB basis over a 20-year period. The first delivery is scheduled for early 2026.

In April, Singapore subsidiary ENN LNG signed a 20-year S&P agreement with US liquefaction developer NextDecade for 1.5 mtpa on an FOB basis from the Rio Grande LNG export project in Brownsville, Texas. Shipments will start in 2026.

ENN is also buying LNG from Novatek Gas & Power Asia, which will be supplied from the Arctic LNG 2 project in Russia.

ENN Natural Gas has an import and bunkering LNG terminal in Zhoushan. Photo: ENN