A groundswell of momentum is building in the US around the use of LNG as ship fuel as owners, ports and regulators, have realised the benefits of this emerging technology.
“It used to be said that LNG was a chicken or egg problem,” says Paal Johansen, who leads DNV GL’s maritime business in the Americas, “but now it is looking as if we not only have the egg, but the chicken and the henhouse too. As we see this trend grow, DNV GL is working to ensure that owners can be confident that not only the technology their vessels need has been vetted, but that the supporting infrastructure and operational practices are well established.”
A combination of rising bunker prices, environmental awareness and regulations, growth in production and developing infrastructure have served as the tipping point which could see LNG establish itself as a viable primary fuel for commercial vessels in the US. “The US has tremendous natural gas resources, especially from unconventional sources, and production hit the highest levels on record in August 2013. Utilising this resource addresses the key concern in shipping – the rising cost of fuel oil, while at the same time reducing the industry’s impact on the environment,” continues Johansen.
Several owners have made the commitment to switching to LNG, in anticipation of the strictly limited emissions to air allowed under both the North American Emission Control Area (ECA) requirements and Phase II of California’s Ocean Going Vessel (OGV) Clean Fuel Regulation. Two owners have already decided to work with DNV GL as they make their first forays into this new chapter of shipping.
Fuelled by the environmental benefits of LNG, DNV GL has been asked by Crowley Maritime to provide classification services for its two new LNG-powered ConRo ships to be built at VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula, MS. The ConRo’s will transport both vehicles and containers between the US and Puerto Rico. The 219.5 meter long vessels will have space for 2400TEU and 400 vehicles, and will meet the DNV GL Green Passport and CLEAN class notation environmental standards.
Another shipowner, Matson has also decided to move forward with the construction of two new Aloha class 3600TEU containerships at Aker Philadelphia Shipyard with DNV GL as its partner for classification. Designed for service between Hawaii and the West Coast, the 260.3 meter long vessels will be the largest containership constructed in the US and feature dual fuel engines and hull forms optimised for energy efficient operations.
“We are proud to have been chosen to support Matson and Crowley on these ground-breaking projects,” says Paal Johansen, “their vision in taking this step forward will not only enhance their own competitivity, but will prove valuable for the US shipping industry as a whole. This will also give the yards the opportunity to develop and showcase new competences, while spurring infrastructure development around the country, on top of which their customers will benefit from access to the latest generation of highly efficient ship designs.”
Using LNG as fuel allows vessels to make significant cuts to their emissions to the air, bringing them into compliance with incoming regulations to protect the environment. Virtually eliminating particulate matter and significantly cutting sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, the switch from conventional fuel also results in up to a 30% reduction of carbon dioxide, making the vessel especially suited to environmentally sensitive coastal areas.
Ongoing research is also helping to lay a solid foundation for the burgeoning industry, with DNV GL having won a grant from the US Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) to analyse the issues and challenges associated with LNG bunkering, and the landside infrastructure needed to store and distribute LNG. DNV GL also recently launched a recommended practice for authorities, LNG bunker suppliers and ship operators to provide guidance on how LNG bunkering can be undertaken in a safe and efficient manner. This is the product of extensive experience of LNG bunkering-related projects over the past decade, including from the large-scale LNG industry.
Currently, 84 LNG-fuelled ships are in operation or on order worldwide. These range from passenger ferries, Coast Guard patrol vessels, and container ships to platform supply vessels. Of these 76% are classed by DNV GL.
About DNV GL
Driven by its purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment, DNV GL enables customers to advance the safety and sustainability of their business. DNV GL provides classification and technical assurance along with software and independent expert advisory services to the maritime, oil & gas and energy industries. It also provides certification services to customers across a wide range of industries. Combining leading technical and operational expertise, risk methodology and in-depth industry knowledge, DNV GL empowers its customers’ decisions and actions with trust and confidence. The company continuously invests in research and collaborative innovation to provide customers and society with operational and technological foresight. Established in 1864, DNV GL operates globally in more than 100 countries with over 16,000 professionals dedicated to helping their customers make the world safer, smarter and greener.