We all are aware of the expanding vehicle fleets being switched to natural gas. Now liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is being used more and more for marine vessels. This exciting development covers many issues and aspects, so this week’s and next week’s columns will attempt to share the emerging details.
Harvey Gulf International Marine announced plans in mid-June to build and operate the first LNG marine fueling facility in the U.S. at its Port Fourchon, La., vessel facility.
The facility is expected to begin service in February 2014 with two docks, each with 270,000 gallons of LNG storage and the capacity to transfer 500 gallons of fuel a minute. Harvey Gulf will be the largest owner and operator of LNG-powered offshore vessels in the world.
To date, Harvey Gulf is the only company in North America that has committed $400 million to build, own and operate LNG-powered offshore support vessels as well as two LNG fueling docks.
Similar plans from numerous other companies have changed LNG-fueled ships from a novelty to a growing market.
Interlake Steamship Co., a major bulk carrier on the Great Lakes, recently struck a deal with Shell Petroleum to supply LNG to its vessels. Their goal is to convert the first vessel by the spring of 2015.
North America’s two largest ferry operators, Washington State Ferries and British Columbia Ferries, have unveiled plans to convert existing vessels to LNG. One of New York’s Staten Island ferries is also set to convert to LNG next year.
There are an estimated 30 LNG-powered vessels currently in service worldwide, with approximately another 30 in design or construction. There are almost 400 LNG carriers, many of which have a dual-fuel arrangement.
Several LNG liquefaction/storage facilities near the Central Atlantic Coast could supply fuel for 590 tugs and 246 ferries operating in the New York/New Jersey region.
An LNG liquefaction/storage facility in the Northwest Pacific Coast could support converting a total of 97 ferries, as well as 11 cruise vessels operating between Seattle and Alaska.
On the Gulf Coast several LNG import terminals could be used to support converting 949 tugs and 63 ferries operating in the lower Mississippi River, and in Louisiana and Texas ports serving Gulf Coast marine traffic.
The Royal Academy of Engineering recently made a comprehensive survey of current and potential future marine propulsion systems, measuring them against the objectives of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.
The reports states that LNG, with current propulsion units, is a known technology with standards already in place, is cheaper and cleaner than diesel, but requires a global infrastructure. Gas turbines are a niche and the fuel is expensive, while renewables such as wind and solar may have applications as auxiliary sources of power.
In the medium and long term, biofuels, synthetic fuels, hydrogen and a variety of fuel cells are potential direct replacements for current fuels. However there are significant investment, infrastructure, storage, handling and technological problems to be overcome.
Shipborne nuclear power, used in naval ships, would need changes in design, building and operational methods for merchant shipping,
Current battery technology may be restricted as a prime mover to smaller ships, but offers potential as an auxiliary power source.
World Shipping Council members operate approximately 90 percent of the global liner ship capacity, providing approximately 400 regularly scheduled services linking the world’s continents. Collectively, they transport about 60 percent of the value of global seaborne trade, or more than $4 trillion worth of goods annually.
Although you may not want to start converting your fishing boat, it is evident that the economic and environmental advantages of LNG make it a likely power source for marine vessels worldwide.
Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.
Reproduced with permission from The Journal Record.