LNG as bunker fuel only seen as long-term solution for shipping: Lloydâ€™s Register
LNG bunkering was seen more as a long-term solution to meet the challenges of the shipping industry, Global Manager at Lloydâ€™s Register Douglas Raitt told the Emerging Asia Small and Mid-Scale LNG forum Friday.
His slides specifically noted that LNG-fueled engines were a viable option for deep sea trades in the long term â€” more than 10 years from now â€” and particularly for liner trades.
Pangea LNGâ€™s Rene Van Vliet, who was chairing the event, had similar views, saying that it would likely be well beyond 2020 before LNG is used for deep sea shipping.
In a shipowner survey conducted by Lloydâ€™s, those polled unanimously said â€œdistillates are the way to goâ€ within the next five years. In other words, gasoil would be the predominant fuel used for shipping come 2015, Raitt said.
â€œEven if [ship operators] think that scrubbing technology can be a silver bullet by 2015 â€” 2015 is only 16 months from now. Thereâ€™s not enough time to retrofit the global fleet,â€ Raitt explained.
In the medium to long term, closer to the reduction in sulfur cap at the end of decade, scrubbing technology seemed to be the solution preferred by the shipping industry. The main factor driving LNG as a fuel is the lowering of the sulfur limit in emission control areas, as well as the global cap pushing shipowners to move away from residual fuel oil. Under UN International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), world bunker fuel should contain no more than 3.5% sulfur from 2012 onward, and no more than 0.5% sulfur from 2020 onwards.
The environmental benefits of LNG, in terms of significant reductions in emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and particulate matter are very well known in the industry.
However, ship operators often talk about the problem of methane slip that comes with using LNG as a bunker fuel, which Raitt described as â€œa potential penalty towards the green credentials that LNG has and negates any carbon dioxide reduction from using LNG as fuel compared to conventional shipping.â€
LNG PRICE AS A DRIVER TO USE IT FOR BUNKERING
Shipowners are highly sensitive to the pricing of LNG and it determines if they see LNG as a fuel for the future, Raitt said, underscoring the need for â€œLNG to be priced competitively.â€ Raitt said the current fuel bill for ship operators is about 60-70% of the voyage cost. â€œItâ€™s very much driven by the money in the system that the shipowners have to invest to improve their ships and build newbuilds with cleaner fuels,â€ Raitt added.
In addition, a global index price mechanism needs to be in place for LNG to be a bunker fuel, which could possibly be oil-linked. At the same time, this would require a global trading platform.
PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE THE PLUNGE INTO LNG BUNKERING
Raitt urged the industry to also look at other options such as scrubbers â€” as an alternative means of compliance â€” and future fuels such as methanol.
â€œDonâ€™t let blind optimism for LNG overtake the practicalities needed to be resolved for LNG bunkering,â€ Raitt said.
On top of the safety and operational concerns in using LNG for bunkering purposes, Raitt noted the importance of crew competence.
â€œ[LNG] is ultimately a dangerous product to handleâ€¦You would have to have a high level of sophistication that we had not seen in the last 50 years for conventional bunkering,â€ Raitt said.
Extending from the point raised by Stephane Maillard, business development manager at GTT, pertaining to reduced available cargo space on a LNG-fueled ship as compared to the equivalent conventional ship, Lloydâ€™s estimated that the on-board storage space for LNG to give similar energy output as conventional fuel would be tripled or even quadrupled. Furthermore, LNG requires cryogenics for bunker storage tanks.
Lastly, there are quality variations for LNG as a fuel for ships, and the consequences are not yet fully understood.
Currently, there are no fixed agreements to characterize or standardize LNG quality for end use.
Source: The Shipping Tribune â€“ 13 May 2013
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