Thursday, July 26, 2012

As Fuel for Container and Bulk Freight Vessels it Should be a Gas!

Bunkering Problems of LNG Addressed by Industry Association
Shipping News Feature

UK - WORLDWIDE - Just as the use of gas as a fuel for private cars has not caught on in many areas of the western world, primarily due to the shift required in both perception and infrastructure, so the uptake of liquefied natural gas (LNG) within the shipping industry as a fuel to power both cargo and passenger vessels has been somewhat slower than many, particularly the environmental lobby, would like. Gas has advantages, marine pollution springs to mind - and drawbacks, flammability and handling problems for example when employed as a marine fuel whether on a container ship or a bulk freighter and one of the major encumbrances is the difficulty of bunkering the product safely.

The inaugural meeting of the Natural Gas Marine Fuel Safety Advisory Group, as organised by industry association Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), was held in London on the 10th July. The cross-industry group has been established by the liquefied gas shipping industry to give advice on the design, operation, maintenance and training for natural gas marine fuel systems. The terms of reference of the new group cover the design, operation and safety of LNG bunkering logistics spectrum, from bulk storage, bunker vessel design and operations and LNG transfer arrangements to shipboard gas containment and handling systems.

The use of LNG as marine fuel, in accordance with the increasingly strict IMO requirements governing ship emissions, is not only opening up a major new energy market but also introducing technological challenges for the shipping industry. LNG bunkering will bring a wide cross-section of ship and port operators into contact with a fuel that requires careful handling. 

A safety regime has been developed by the gas shipping and storage industry to cope with the hazards posed by a cryogenic liquid at -162˚C and its flammable vapours. Evidence of the success of this LNG regime is given by the exemplary safety record that gas carrier and terminal operators have built up over the past 50 years. This safety record provides the industry with its licence to operate.

The establishment of the advisory group reflects the gas shipping industry’s desire to pass on the body of knowledge it has accumulated to a rapidly emerging LNG bunkering community to ensure a continuation of the safety record. Although there are currently only a handful of LNG-powered vessels that are not LNG carriers in service, the order book is growing and LNG bunkering operations are poised to blossom.

Going forward, the Natural Gas Marine Fuel Safety Advisory Group will examine current proposals, operational procedures and training practices in projects proposing the use of LNG as a bunker fuel. From this work the members can then develop a position and offer advice where appropriate, referencing current codes, standards and industry guidelines wherever possible. If serious concerns not believed to be adequately addressed are identified, the Advisory Group will lobby flag states and other relevant bodies to draw attention to the problem and offer possible solutions. This process may include the preparation of submissions to IMO.

Photo: “K” Line LNG Shipping (UK) Ltd’s Trinity Glory under way.