LNG: Fuel of the Future for Shipping and Transport

As the fleet of LNG tank ships continues to grow, LNG’s prospects are looking robust in other transportation sectors too

As the drive towards good environmental stewardship continues to intensify, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) has been making great strides as the cleaner burning “fuel of choice” for shipping and transport.

By Sean Andersen, LNG Specialist, Dixon

LNG is a cryogenic natural gas, cooled to its liquid state of minus 162 degrees Celsius (minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit). In converting natural gas to LNG, the volume is reduced by about 600 times, allowing it to be stored and transported effectively.

Once delivered to its destination, LNG is warmed back to its original gaseous state so that it can be used like any other natural gas resource for heating and cooling, cooking, generating electricity and powering manufacturing/processing operations.

The transport of LNG has been around for decades, but its growth trajectory has never been higher than it is today. The reason is quite simple: LNG fills a need driven by the stricter environmental requirements for the shipping industry, which dictates that traditional bunker fuel must be replaced by the use of cleaner fuels. LNG is a special fuel because it requires no after-treatment to meet emissions control and other environmental requirements.

Beginning in 2015, new international emissions regulations apply to sulfur in sensitive marine environments—particularly in “first world” regions such as Europe and North America. Additional regulations covering nitrogen oxides and particles, plus carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, will go into effect in 2020.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), an agency of the United Nations, has also issued sanctions against the availability and use of “dirty fuels” after 2020, so ship owners and operators are actively seeking alternative fuels that can meet these more stringent emissions criteria.

As our society adapts to these stricter environmental and climate change realities, LNG is a star performer in a number of ways:

  • LNG reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by approximately 90%
  • LNG causes virtually no sulfur emissions or particulate emissions
  • LNG reduces greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 15%

In short, converting to LNG fuel means more than meeting the new emissions control requirements—which is something no other fuel can accomplish.

Marine leads the way

LNG technology for ships is highly developed—and also highly beneficial:

  • LNG engines, available as new or converted models from global manufacturers such as Caterpillar, MAN, Rolls-Royce and Wartsila, are energy-efficient and have low emissions
  • The price of LNG is often lower than the price of petroleum

Moreover, the market for LNG is set to undergo dramatic expansion as more LNG terminals in North America and Europe are scheduled to come onstream by 2020.

According to industry estimates, by 2025 LNG is expected to account for nearly 15% of the entire fuel bunkering volume in Europe, and close to that percentage in North America.

To read part one of the article by Sean Andersen, please contact the Editor. Part Two will be published in the February issue of Hose + Coupling World magazine.

Image courtesy of Dixon.