The global focus on decarbonisation could create opportunities for gas carriers to transport liquid hydrogen and CO2 in bulk, says SIGTTO’s Andrew Clifton
The Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO) is entering its fifth decade in unprecedented times of growth for the liquefied gas shipping and terminal industry; decarbonisation meanwhile, has emerged as a global priority. Driven by the Paris climate agreement and government policies, decarbonisation is happening much more quickly than anyone would have imagined just a few years ago.
As a result, IMO is under increasing pressure to further reduce the already challenging strategic goals it has set itself for the decarbonisation of shipping and energy, leading to the use of alternative fuels and the emergence of carbon capture and storage. This is quite likely to see SIGTTO members, in future years, carrying non-hydrocarbon gases such as liquid hydrogen and CO2, in bulk, at sea for the first time.
SIGTTO recognises that the environment, digitalisation and staying relevant in a decarbonising world are of priority and has incorporated these elements within its strategic plan.
It was therefore of note to hear about the launch of Suiso Frontier, the world’s first ever hydrogen tanker, at Kawasaki Heavy Industries just before Christmas in Kobe, Japan.
Suiso Frontier is designed to transport liquefied hydrogen, cooled to -253°C, at 1/800 of its original vapour volume. The vessel has a 1,250 m3 vacuum-insulated, type C storage tank and is expected to be delivered in late 2020.
Once operational, Suiso Frontier will be utilised to load liquefied hydrogen produced in Australia for transport to Japan. A liquefied hydrogen unloading terminal is being built in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, and a brown coal gasification facility is being constructed in Australia.
There are many challenges to carrying liquid hydrogen at sea, not the least of which is the temperature at atmospheric pressure being just 20° C above absolute zero at -253°C, the high upper explosive level (75%) and its very small molecular size.
As liquid hydrogen has never been carried at sea in bulk before, the International Code for Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk
(IGC code) was not written with hydrogen in mind. SIGTTO played a part in drawing up the interim guidelines for the carriage of liquid hydrogen in bulk, attached to the IGC Code and agreed at MSC 97, being formally adopted on 25 November 2016.
SIGTTO will be monitoring the operation of Suiso Frontier when it enters service, gathering as many lessons learned as possible for any future guidelines for its members regarding the carriage of this unique cargo.
New environmental subcommittee
The SIGTTO board recently approved the formation of a new Environmental Subcommittee. The move is part of SIGTTO’s strategic plan and one of the first topics taken up by the subcommittee is methane emissions on LNG carriers.
Activities such as these ensure that SIGTTO stays relevant and continues to be fit for the future, when gas vessels will increasingly carry non-hydro-carbon liquefied gases.
Full programme of events
Besides the formation of the new subcommittee, SIGTTO remains as busy as ever generating its programme of events and increasing the number of technical projects underway, with several publications due for approval in 2020.
Among SIGTTO’s events is our first panel meeting in two years and regional forums in Houston, Singapore, Livorno (together with a technical visit to the floating storage and regasification unit), Busan, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Shanghai, Perth and South America. SIGTTO will hold its board meeting in the spring at its offices in London and GPC 81 in Athens, together with the 65th panel meeting and a technical visit to Revithoussa LNG Terminal. The panel is hosted by Maran Gas and the technical visit by DEPA. The panel is SIGTTO’s major meeting of 2020 and we are very pleased it is returning to Athens after 15 years.