DISCOVER Magazine #7

LNG – A step towards cleaner emissions

Published in category: Seagoing Transport

LNG as ship’s fuel. The subject is a complex issue, involving numerous economic, commercial and political factors, not to mention the balancing act that is supply and demand. Talking about how LNG will fit into a cleaner future, Bastiaan Schurink, Design & Proposal Marketeer with Damen’s Cargo Vessel Product Group, shows that the issue goes far beyond the realms of the maritime industry.

In terms of environmental regulations relating to exhaust gas emissions, the maritime industry is set to experience some major changes over the coming years. “First of all, there is the 2020 global sulphur cap, which will see the current limits of sulphur oxides (SOx) emissions being extended to the worldwide stage,” begins Mr Schurink. “In terms of economics and logistics, this is going to have a big impact, which begs the question; are ship-owners giving this subject enough attention?”

“And then, in 2021, there is the creation of the European NOx Emission Control Areas (NECAs), which are already in place in American waters under EPA Tier 4. Covering the same geographical area as the current North and Baltic Seas Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA), the NECAs are expected to significantly reduce nitrogen oxides in these areas.” The subject doesn’t stop at SOx and NOx though, as the subjects of CO2 and PM emissions are already on the IMO’s discussion table. While nothing has been decided on these two issues yet, rest assured, the IMO will be addressing these issues in greater depth at some time in the future.

Future-proof energy sources

“The increase in attention paid to environmental standards is not unique to the maritime industry, of course. With the world’s population, and subsequent energy needs, growing every day, the entire global energy sector – both supply and demand – is under scrutiny. The fact is that the emissions of polluting substances such as CO2, PM, SOx, NOx urgently need to decrease.”

When talking about global energy issues, a word must also be said about the volatility of oil prices: “The evolution of oil prices over the last 50 years has felt like a roller-coaster ride – a sequence of steep hills, unexpected jumps, and sharp drop–offs. For the world economy, this bumpy ride has been anything but fun.”

The switch to LNG

Considering this state of affairs facing the world energy sector, it can be said that there is a need for clean, environmentally friendly energy sources. “As a result we are seeing a growing number of offshore wind parks and solar parks to generate renewable energy. And LNG will be present in this cleaner future too. In fact, a recent report from classification society DNV GL estimates that natural gas will become the largest single source of energy from 2034. Although not a renewable energy source, LNG is the cleanest possible fossil fuel. Primarily composed of methane, LNG is significantly less polluting, compared to diesel. It is non-toxic and non-corrosive, and can be used safely as a fuel in the maritime industry.” Furthermore, research suggests that natural gas as a world resource will be available for decades.

LGC 6500 (2)
On the image: Liquefied Gas Carrier 6500 LNG (cargo capacity 6500 m3).

The attractiveness of LNG as a ship’s fuel is increasing both commercially and politically. “The oil and gas majors are now moving towards European LNG bunkering; an issue in which EU funding and, more recently, involvement from classification societies are playing a role. And anyone who keeps an eye on the news can see that other regions such as Northern America, Middle East and Asia are following suit.”

Making progress

“The general public have also contributed to the interest in LNG. People are becoming more aware of the effects of polluting the environment. Therefore they don’t want to see black smoke when travelling. It is for this reason that passenger ferries and cruise ships were among the first vessels to adopt LNG as fuel. For these types of vessels – and container ships too – it is relatively easy to step over to LNG as they tend to sail the same routes.”

In order to fully compete with traditional fuels, the small scale LNG infrastructure needs to be developed says Mr Schurink. “This was previously known as the chicken-and-egg problem, when shipping companies said that there was no LNG available, and LNG providers said that there were no customers. This situation is now changing in that the availability of LNG in Europe is getting better and better. However, the infrastructure is still not fully prepared and optimized. So there is a lot to improve. With better availability of LNG, shipping companies can make the shift to LNG more easily. At the moment LNG is transferred via truck-to-ship bunkering, but this is really not the right way to proceed. Ship-to-ship bunkering is a very common way to get fuel, and, although LNG ship-to-ship bunkering is quite new, it presents a solution to improving infrastructure.”

Making progress - LGC3000
On the image: Liquefied Gas Carrier 3000 LNG (cargo capacity 3000 m3).

Bunkering solutions

With this growing market, comes a need for more vessels capable of carrying LNG. “Perhaps more importantly, the market is going to need a wider range of vessels, because there is a big difference between the large 100,000m3 carriers, intended for intercontinental LNG transport, and the smaller vessels that Damen has developed in recent years. We have designed our range of Liquefied Gas Carriers to fill this niche that is opening up for smaller vessels from 500 to 7,500m3, and going up to 30,000m3. These vessels are ideal for ship-to-ship bunkering of cruise vessels, container vessels and RoRos. As you may expect, in addition to ship-to-ship bunkering, these vessels will also be used for feeder services for the regional distribution of LNG from the large to small scale LNG terminals.”

Equipped with IMO independent Type C tanks delivered by well-known partners, Damen’s range of Liquefied Gas Carriers use spherical or cylindrical pressure vessels that store the product between two and four bars of pressure. Damen also offers solutions to the issue of Boil-Off Gas (BOG) Management. This occurs when heat enters the storage tank, causing some of the LNG to evaporate. This results in a pressure build-up within the tank. The problem can be addressed by BOG reliquefaction techniques, using a Gas Combustion Unit (GCU), or utilising the BOG as engine or generator fuel.

LGC 6500
On the image: Liquefied Gas Carrier 6500 LNG (cargo capacity 6500 m3).

More than a fuel

LNG has relevance in more than just the shipping industry, however. There is a growing case that supports using LNG for power generation purposes. To this end, Damen’s small scale Floating Storage Units (FSU) can play a supportive role. “These can be used for LNG as well as LPG transfers – often in combination with our Liquefied Gas Carriers. Where do we see these in use? In remote domestic or industrial applications. Small islands in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, for example, or for companies looking for opportunities to reload smaller cargoes. In certain cases, the small scale of such an LNG storage solution would be economically attractive when compared to large scale FSRUs. Furthermore, a marine-based LNG storage solution is more flexible and mobile than a large land-based facility.”

Whether for Liquefied Gas Carriers or FSUs, Damen’s focus on clients’ needs remains clear: “Depending in which branch of the maritime sector a client operates – and of course their budget – we can assist an owner with making an informed and realistic decision.”

FSU 13000
On the image: Floating Storage Unit 13000 (deadweight 8000 tonnes)

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