LNG for Marine Diesel Engines – Nice Fuel If You Can Get It

By George Backwell at April 22, 2012 05:12
Filed Under: General

Merchant ships in MARPOL Vl Emission Control Areas (SECA) have to burn either low sulphur fuels/distillates; or heavy fuel oil plus an exhaust gas scrubber; or LNG, in order to comply with engine exhaust gas emission regulations – it’s as simple as that. The first two fuels are readily available worldwide, but not liquid natural gas (LNG). The past week saw minds concentrated, in locations half a world apart, on ways to make LNG with its cleaner exhaust gas emission characteristics, and (likely) lower price more widely available.

LNG Bunkering in Europe

A few days ago the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) brought together in Zeebrugge, Belgium, a group of fifty professionals to consider safety aspects of LNG bunkering, where it became clear that a number of ports within the European SECA area are already well advanced in setting up LNG bunkering stations, with supply mainly by special bunker barges.

Clearly though, Norway, which incidentally has large natural deposits of LNG, leads the field in its take-up of the fuel. At present, there are 25 LNG fuelled ships operating in the Baltic and North Sea Emission Control Area.

Trond Giske, Norway's Minister of Trade and Industry, describes the LNG bunkering infrastructure problem as something of a conundrum – bunker distributors do not want to set up a supply network until there is sufficient demand from shipping, while shipping cannot change to LNG without a supply infrastructure. He referred to this as a ‘chicken and egg’ problem; solved in Norway by the allocation of funds from the national budget to clean energy development company Enova to set up the necessary natural gas infrastructure.

 Meanwhile, DNV hosted the annual Process and Asset Risk Management Conference (PARC) in Brussels that focussed attention on LNG opportunities, with news that Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ghent add to the list of European ports making an investment in LNG bunkering facilities, joining those in the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Poland.

Photo courtesy of Lloyd's Register

LNG Bunkering in South East Asia

If Europe is leading, Asia-Pacific regional bunker hub Singapore aims to catch up. Its Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) established a joint industry project (JIP) managed by DNV earlier this year to investigate the operational feasibility of LNG bunkering in Singapore with finance from MPA’s ‘MINT’ fund (the Maritime Innovation & Technology Fund).

Just as in Europe, the key barrier to more widespread adoption of LNG as ships’ fuel was recognised to be an immature bunkering infrastructure. It was mainly to address this issue that the MPA set up its JIP project, which includes participation by a household-name list of shipping industry stakeholders.

Dr. Anthony Barker, General Manager for BG Singapore Gas Marketing, and Chairman of the JIP steering committee said: “This JIP is a school book example on how industry and regulators can work closely together to accelerate the implementation of new technologies and industry solutions that one single player can not accelerate alone.”

Despite that though, resolution of the LNG bunkering infrastructure ‘chicken – egg’ problem may best be hastened, as it has been by LNG leaders Norway, with a financial push from an interested government.

 

 

 

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