The implementation of the IMO sulphur cap could accelerate the uptake of LNG as a fuel in the OSV sector
OSV owners in Norway and the US were among the earliest adopters of LNG as a marine fuel, with LNG-fuelled Viking Energy entering service in 2003. Since then, however, LNG as a marine fuel has been on the back burner for the OSV market, with only about three dozen vessels in operation, on order or under construction.
ABS global engineering division manager of engineering services Keith Yeo believes that will change after the IMO 0.5% global sulphur cap is implemented on 1 January 2020. Implementation of the global sulphur cap will reduce sulphur content in fuels from 3.5% to 0.5%. This, coupled with the 0.1% limit for SOx and particulate matter (PM) – which has been in force since 2015 in emission control areas (ECAs) in the North Sea, Baltic and North America – makes LNG an attractive option for owners. Burning LNG as fuel eliminates SOx and PM to near zero and cuts NOx emissions by about 90%. In 2050, shipping will be faced with cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.
Mr Yeo says particular drivers of the uptake of LNG as a marine fuel will be the experience gained in early projects and the growth in LNG bunkering infrastructure.
While the environmental benefits of LNG as a fuel are clear, challenges to its further widespread adoption in the OSV sector remain. Speaking at the Asian Offshore Support Journal Conference scheduled for 17-18 September in Singapore, Mr Yeo will provide some valued insight on the technical, regulatory, financial and operational hurdles of using LNG as marine fuel in OSVs. During his presentation on LNG as a marine fuel, he will discuss the rules and regulations regarding the design, construction and operation of gas-fuelled ships and the use of LNG for meeting the emission regulations.
Converting is complex
For OSV owners considering LNG as a fuel, Mr Yeo says special attention has to be paid to hazardous area delineation and vent mast locations, space and location of the fuel gas supply system and LNG tanks and routing of LNG fuel piping.
Many of these make converting an existing OSV complex and prohibitive. Owners also face the technical and financial challenge of modifying or replacing an OSV’s existing engines for natural gas operation. When it comes to LNG as a marine fuel, it is preferable to start as a newbuild rather than adapting an existing hull.
Since the International Code of Safety for Ships using gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code) was adopted by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in June 2015, the number of ships using LNG as a marine fuel has grown considerably. The current fleet of 167 vessels is expected to double by 2026.
ABS, a leading classification society, has classed a diversified number of non-LNG carriers using LNG as fuel, amongst which are Harvey Gulf International Marine’s series of dual-fuel platform supply vessels, Tote Maritime’s 3,100-teu containerships and azimuthing stern drive (ASD) tugs and specialised tugs operating in southeast Asia. ABS classed Singapore’s first LNG-powered tug, built by Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) for Keppel Smit Towage. The class society has also worked with other Singaporean shipyards on two ASD tugs built by PaxOcean for PT Pertamina Trans Kontinental (PTK) and LNG-hybrid electric-powered tugs built by Semcorp Marine.
ABS has also supported LNG bunkering projects, such as Tote’s 2,200-m3 bunker barge built by Conrad Orange shipyard in Orange, Texas, a 4,000-m3 LNG bunker Articulated Tug Barge (ATB) under construction at VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula, Mississippi for Q-LNG for charter to Shell, and the 7,500-m3 bunkering vessel built by Keppel O&M for FueLNG, a joint venture between the Singapore shipbuilder and Shell.
Collaboration drives uptake
The development of new LNG-fuelled tugs and bunkering vessels is expected to be facilitated by a collaborative agreement ABS signed last year with shipbuilder Sembcorp Marine and Singapore public sector R&D agency A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC). The agreement is to develop technologies, applications and capabilities in the offshore, marine and energy sectors to advance the adoption of LNG as a globally preferred fuel.
Under the collaboration, Sembcorp Marine and ABS will work on the approval and certification of Sembcorp Marine’s gas value chain solutions for small-scale LNG applications, such as LNG-battery hybrid tugs, LNG bunker vessels and LNG terminals.
Additionally, Sembcorp Marine, ABS and IHPC will focus on offshore LNG processing, transfer and containment, and new applications of LNG as a sustainable fuel. Through various joint developmental projects, they also seek to augment the safety and reliability of LNG for offshore applications.
The technology partners will develop and conduct training and technical workshops through the Sembcorp Marine Academy to build and hone specialised knowledge and skill sets supporting the growth of LNG technology-related businesses.
Overall, the research collaboration will see the partners leveraging one another’s domain expertise, namely: Sembcorp Marine’s offshore, marine and energy value chain solutions; ABS’s LNG certification and experience in applying operational technology; and IHPC’s expertise in high performance computing, system modelling and advanced simulation.
Speaking at the signing of the agreement, Sembcorp Marine president and chief executive Wong Weng Sun said: “We can do much more in the offshore, marine and energy sectors to advance [LNG’s] adoption as a preferred fuel for global consumption. I am therefore excited that Sembcorp Marine is working with ABS and IHPC to spearhead the development of new gas technologies, applications and solutions that could expedite this outcome.”
Mr Yeo sees LNG bunkering vessels benefitting both marine and land-based users. “Increasing land-based infrastructure is one option for promoting LNG as marine fuel,” says Mr Yeo. “However, these require substantial investment and regulatory approvals to proceed. Compatibility to different LNG-fuelled ship types is also a concern. In the near term, smaller LNG bunkering vessels may be the preferred option, not only for LNG-fueled ships, but also for other land-based consumers.”
Snapshot bio: Keith Yeo
2016 - Based in Singapore, Mr Yeo has been the manager of the engineering services department within the Global Engineering Division
2006 – joined ABS
2000 - began his career at Defence Science and Technology Agency, Singapore
Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore
Chartered Engineer registered with the UK Engineering Council (CEng), and a Chartered Marine Engineer
Member of The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (CMarEng MIMarEST)