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Riding the wave

LNG Industry,

There are many ways to clean up exhaust emissions from ships in order to meet new standards in place around the world. Increasingly, however, owners are asking themselves one simple question: why spend money on expensive devices to clean up dirty emissions when you can burn clean fuel in the first place? LNG is the clean fuel that owners are most interested in at present. Doubts about availability, bunkering, costs, and the technology and training required do exist, but this is not preventing owners and research projects from moving forward. As more gas ships are developed, a gas bunkering network will emerge to serve them. Provided gas prices remain low, there will be a more rapid shift to gas.

Some ships already operate on LNG as a fuel and the technology is proven, but existing ships will need converting if they are going to burn LNG as a fuel. Prescient owners are already moving in this direction.

Codes for development

The lack of a mandatory international framework for gas-fuelled ships is hampering developments, but classification societies are helping owners to anticipate the rules and move to safe new designs and conversions. International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines have been in place since June 2009 by means of Resolution MSC.285(86), but this is not enough: the text is not mandatory and flags must implement specific rules based on the guidelines or simply adopt these guidelines as a national regulation. Bureau Veritas (BV) developed its own rules: NR481 in 2002 for the design and installation of dual-fuel engines using low pressure gas, and NR529 in 2007 for the safety rules for installation of gas-fuelled engines on ships.

IMO is completing the International Code of Safety for Ships Using Gases or Other Low Flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code). Unfortunately, however, discussions of the IMO BLG subcommittee held in February 2013 were not satisfactory, and the code is not expected to enter into force before 2016.

That leaves yards and owners reliant on class rules for the assessment of the tanks, gas-fuelled systems, engines, and the integration of all these systems to measure the complete gas-fuelled ship design.

LNG conversions

Small and medium cargo ships trading in the Baltic or North Sea and passenger ferries on routes within emission control areas (ECAs) or between EU ports are the first movers for LNG conversions.

In the segment of oil/chemical tankers, two projects are now becoming a reality, using very different concepts in the engine and propulsion solutions.

Project 1

The conversion of the Fure West, a 2006-built 17 600 DWT chemical tanker presently trading in North Europe, is one of these ongoing projects. It is being developed as a joint industry project (JIP) called LNG-CONV under the TEN-T funded EU project ‘Pilot LNG’.

The ship’s conversion will begin before January 2015, when the stringent new emission levels take effect in the North and Baltic Seas.

The Fure West’s main engine will be converted for operation with low pressure natural gas at about 5 bar. It will be dual-fuel; therefore able to burn normal fuel if necessary.

Project 2

The second project is the conversion of the Bergen Viking, a 4420 DWT chemical and product tanker built in 2007 and operated along the Norwegian cost. This vessel belongs to a fleet of six vessels owned by Bergen Tankers AS.

The retrofit is planned for the summer of 2014 and includes a complete Rolls-Royce package comprising two new Bergen generating engines type C26:33L6AG burning only gas.

LNG ferries

French company Brittany Ferries is currently involved in an ambitious project for the conversion of three of its units to LNG propulsion. It is also planning a LNG-powered newbuilding, which will be built at STX France for delivery in 2017 and will be the first cruise ferry to use membrane tanks for LNG fuel. In Germany, BV is working with the design office Ingo Schlüter in collaboration with Becker Marine and SDC on a LNG-hybrid ferry for use in Germany’s Wadden Sea inland waters.

LNG barges

Also in Germany, the port of Hamburg is developing the LNG-powered electric supply barge. Project partners are SCHRAMM group, Ingo Schlüter, EON Hanse Wärme, Gasnor AS, Becker Marine Systems, Aida Cruises and BV.


Ship conversions to dual-fuel will increase as LNG bunker supplies become available. Although there are plenty of challenges to this, some owners are already moving on to newbuildings.

All these projects depend on bunkering, and that is most likely to come with a new generation of small LNG bunkering tankers. Standardisation of procedures, systems and bunkering equipment is a key factor for success in bunkering LNG. The main conclusion document of the ISO working group is a technical specification covering the main principles and functional requirements of the bunkering, mainly regarding safety aspects. A draft was issued in June 2013, which aimed to provide guidance on the standardisation of interface elements between the LNG bunkering facility and the gas-fuelled ship, and on the risk assessment for the design and planning of the bunkering process. These guidelines will pave the way for an expansion of LNG bunkering. LNG as a ship fuel is coming, and it will galvanise a wave of ship conversions.


Written by Carlos Guerrero. Adapted to house style by Ted Monroe

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