LNG is the “fuel for the next decade”; while a container ship will undergo the world’s first retrofit for synthetic natural gas
LNG is a “bridging fuel” and the “fuel for the next decade” says WinGD general manager Volkmar Galke, summing up the Swiss-headquartered engine’s company’s stance.
And he warns against the a “nervous market” making decisions on alternative fuels, explaining “The market is a bit nervous and is talking about many alternative fuels, it is not wise to have too many choices and to lose focus. For us it is clear that LNG is the bridge, it is not the final solution but due to its availability and scalability it will play a significant role in the journey towards 2050.
“We must discuss alternative fuels for 2030 in a sensible, feasible manner - not in a nervous overreacting market.”
He points out the example of ammonia. “The market is suddenly asking for ammonia but to for ammonia you need power from wind or solar and I don’t see that the necessary infrastructure is ready for ammonia yet. It is valid to look at different alternatives as possible future solutions and we are fully behind this, but the engines will be ready when the fuels are there.”
In contrast, “the clear message for us is that LNG is the fuel for the next decade, supported by a robust infrastructure. Our proven experience with it means we are in a good position to help support owners who are not sure what route to follow.”
Singling out the box ship market when it comes to LNG, he says “The container giants realise that if they want to transport goods in an environmentally sustainable way, LNG is the best route to take. LNG is the fuel that everyone in the container ship market is talking about.
“It really is the only logical choice at the moment; giant vessels have a completely different demand on the volume – they need to be bunkering 18,000 cubic m of fuel. Which other alternative fuel is available and scalable in this amount except LNG?”
He says that while the large container ships are “setting the trend” – in his point of view the feeder vessels are an even better fit for LNG. Mr Galke explains “They are not going from Asia to the US with only one opportunity to stop and bunker so they don’t need huge amounts of LNG [like ultra large container ships]. Instead, feeder vessels are calling at so many ports that the possibility for them to bunker is frequent. I believe that the feeder sector will be the next one to adopt this clean fuel choice.”
A major milestone for the use of LNG within box shipping is of course, CMA CGM’s LNG powered ultra large container ships. In September 2020, CMA CGM launched its 23,000-TEU LNG-powered container ship and.
This major milestone in the construction of the world’s first LNG-powered ultra large container ship was reached at the Shanghai Jiangnan-Changxing Shipyard, at an event attended by CMA CGM Group chairman and chief executive officer Rodolphe Saadé, French and Chinese officials, business leaders and CMA CGM Group customers.
In 2017, Rodolphe Saadé announced his decision to order nine 23,000-TEU container ships that would be the world’s first to be powered by LNG.
CMA CGM said the nine newbuilds will feature a state-of-the-art bridge design, the world’s first to deliver four major innovations to assist the captain and crew.
To further improve the environmental performance of the vessel and its sister ships, their hull forms have been hydrodynamically optimised. The bulb has been seamlessly integrated into the hull profile and the bow is straight. The propeller and rudder blade have also been improved, along with the Becker twisted fin.
The large vessels, 400 m long and 61 m wide, will be distinguished from the rest of the fleet by a special livery displaying an LNG powered logo, attesting to the major worldwide innovation that LNG propulsion represents on ships of this size.
During the launch event, Mr Saadé said “With the launching of the first 23,000-TEU ship powered by liquified natural gas, we demonstrate that energy transition can be effectively successful in our industry if all the players work together. It paves the way to a global shipping approach where economic growth and competitiveness can coexist with sustainability and the fight against climate change.”
Based on their experience thus far in working to deliver engines, fuel cargo tank designs and supply and control systems for CMA CGM’s order, WinGD, GTT and Wärtsilä are offering their combined services to shipowners and operators looking at LNG-power as a propulsion alternative.
SNG: world-first retrofit
A German-led initiative will use a container ship as the first vessel globally to run on synthetic natural gas (SNG) derived from renewable energy
MAN Energy Solutions and Wessels Marine GmbH have announced a technical showcase whereby the 2017-LNG-retrofitted Wes Amelie, a 1,036-TEU feeder container ship, will use liquefied SNG produced from renewable electrical energy as drop-in fuel.
To demonstrate that SNG can successfully be used as shipping fuel, 20 of the 120 tonnes of LNG that Wes Amelie typically uses per round trip will be replaced by climate-neutral SNG. As a result, CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 56 tonnes for this trip.
The two German-headquartered companies are co-operating on the Wes Amelie project with Germany-based Nauticor, an LNG transportation company, and Danish logistics company Unifeeder, which is chartering the vessel.
German automobile manufacturer Audi’s Power-to-Gas facility in Werlte, where a liquefaction plant is currently under construction, will provide the SNG. The fuel will be generated by wind energy and is 100% climate-neutral. Wes Amelie’s SNG showcase trip will take place after the completion of the liquefaction plant in Q2 2020.
The vessel’s owner, Wessels Reederei (Haren/Ems), previously made headlines in 2017 when its MAN 8L48/60B main engine was retrofitted to its current, four-stroke MAN 51/60DF unit that enables dual-fuel operation – the first such conversion of its type.
Wessels Marine managing director Christian Hoepfner said: “The Wes Amelie project has always been about demonstrating the technologically doable while pointing out the regulatory actions necessary to make it possible. The initial retrofit to LNG took support from the German Government to be financially viable, but it was a huge success for the environment in that it drastically reduced emissions. As a consequence, there now is a retrofit programme in place to make more retrofits happen.”
He continued: “In another world first, we will now demonstrate that SNG can successfully be used to reduce harmful emissions even further as the fuel is climate-neutral. However, the costs are still way too high. Going forward, governments and regulators will have to work together to make this a viable and available option for shipowners.”
German subsidies: more LNG conversions
Wessels Reederei said it would initiate conversion of more of its fleet of feeder container ships to LNG if it obtains subsidies from the German Government for green shipping.
If this assurance were secured, then the shipowner would search for funding to achieve its green shipping goals.
“The German Government has opened up funding for these projects, and Wessels Marine would look to go for that for 12 ships converted to LNG,” Mr Hoepfner said.
In parallel, Wessels Marine has committed to begin trials with SNG on Wes Amelie as an additive to the main LNG fuel in Q2 2020.
“Then we will look at how we can use this in the future to run SNG and LNG in combination. Then we need to look at running Wes Amelie exclusively on SNG.”
SNG is produced when energy from renewable sources converts water to hydrogen. Then carbon is added from CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere to create methane that is liquefied and transported to the ship bunkering facility.
This process should demonstrate a viable method of vastly reducing CO2 emissions down to 10% of that from heavy fuel oil. However, it is costly, said Mr Hoepfner.
“The costs are still way too high,” he said. “But a [decarbonised] future means these solutions need to be considered. SNG will help shipping and IMO meet targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 50%.”
However, Mr Hoepfner thinks shipping needs incentives to achieve these goals.
“Going forward, governments and regulators will have to work together to make this a viable and available option for shipowners.”
MAN PrimeServ head in Augsburg, Germany, Stefan Eefting agrees synthetic fuels derived from renewable energy “will play a crucial role” in efforts to reach IMO 2050 goals.
“This is another important milestone and proof of concept for the Maritime Energy Transition, the initiative we have been driving since 2016. We strongly believe that a roadmap based on LNG and SNG as fuels can lead the way to a decarbonised future for shipping,” he said.
Mr Eefting added: “To bring down future emissions generated in the global-trade supply chain, synthetic fuels play a crucial role. Especially in shipping, the use of batteries alone is not a viable option and any successful decarbonisation efforts need to address the fuel.”
“We need Power-to-X out of the labs and into the market in order to produce more competitive, renewable fuels by using scaling effects,” said Mr Eefting. “Power-to-X technology allows the generation of 100% climate-neutral natural gas from renewable energy.”
“This technology has tremendous potential and needs to be freed from regulatory burdens and to be developed on an industrial scale to bring down costs.”
MAN Energy Solutions commissioned the Werlte-based methanation plant, in partnership with Audi, in 2013.
While the 6 MW methanation unit is still the largest of its kind in Europe today, MAN now offers a 50 MW EPC Power-to-X solution to ramp up the generation of synthetic fuel.
Snapshot CV: Volkmar Galke
Volkmar Galke joined Winterthur Gas & Diesel Ltd in 2014 (general manager, deputy vice president sales) having previously worked for 10 years in the two-stroke turbocharger business of MAN Diesel & Turbo. Prior to that, Volkmar spent 12 years in Switzerland with ABB/ALSTOM and Siemens.
Mr Galke holds an Executive MBA degree from the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT, Berlin), a postgraduate degree in business engineering (St. Gallen, Switzerland) and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering (Aachen, Germany).
After living in several cities in Germany, Australia and Switzerland, he and his wife now live in Munich, Germany and Winterthur, Switzerland.
Mr Galke’s spare time is filled with sailing (and maintaining) their boat, racing and organising sailing trips.