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Ports turn to natural gas

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Bloomberg are reporting that the tightening of emissions limits for deep-water ships has some of North America’s busiest ports chasing a new opportunity.

The UN’s International Maritime Organisation last year cut limits on sulfur in marine fuels to 0.5% from 3.5%, starting in 2020.

Now ports in Vancouver, Los Angeles and Tacoma are all studying whether they can profit from supplying LNG, which emits virtually no sulfur, as a cleaner alternative fuel that’s almost as cheap.

While the use of more expensive fuel oil can help existing ships slip under the limit, LNG is the fuel of the future for new vessels, according to DNV GL.

High concentration of sulfur contributes to so-called acid rain, haze and air particulate pollution.

About 97 ships worldwide are now powered by LNG with an additional 91 on order. By 2020, the number may rise to around 250, excluding LNG carriers and inland waterway vessels.

Most LNG-fueled ships now in use travel shorter routes, such as in the Baltics or between Florida and Puerto Rico. In most of these cases, LNG is delivered onto vessels by truck, slowing refuelling and limiting its use to smaller vessels.

Heftier infrastructure that ports will need to supply LNG to deep-sea ships is just starting to emerge. In 2014, Rotterdam became the first port where ship-to-ship LNG fuelling was allowed. The first onshore fuelling station with LNG opened in 2015 at Norway’s Stavanger port, equipped with a loading arm designed for the fuel.

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