Creating New Standard for LNG Bunkering Hose Transfer Assemblies (Part 1)

When does the need for a new industry standard become evident? It might be at the time new technologies emerge in areas where there is incomplete knowledge and understanding. It could be when persistent problems reveal deficiencies in current system designs and field operating practices. Or, it might arise when a lack of comprehensive and universal standards is causing work inefficiencies – so much so that companies are needing to “reinvent the wheel” with each new customer application.

In the case of liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering hose transfer assemblies, a combination of all three factors appeared to be at work. To be sure, LNG fuels are making great strides as an environmentally cleaner way to propel ships around the world when compared to traditional options such as diesel fuel. Since LNG, as a marine fuel, remains in the relatively early stages of market adoption, better standards are needed to help facilitate safe and efficient operations. The necessity is even more pressing when considering the special challenges associated with handling LNG safely; the most significant challenge being the extremely low temperatures (-260°F) and high volatility of LNG.

By Sean Andersen, LNG Specialist, Dixon

Where Are the Best Practices?

Due to insufficient standards, there has been a lack of consistency in the construction of LNG bunkering hose systems. There are existing standards on the nautical side (IGF and IGC codes for natural gas and LNG safety), the land transport side (U.S. DOT codes) and the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes for land-based facilities. None of these industries, however, were comprised of consistent, agreed-upon standards for the equipment to deliver LNG fuel supplies to and from ships.

As Thane Gilman, a senior mechanical engineer at the U.S. Coast Guard, noted, “The IGF Code was filling a void in defining general requirements for gas-fueled ships, but there was still a significant amount of work to be done in defining the requirements for specific equipment and systems.”

The lack of standards, particularly in systems such as LNG bunkering hose transfer assemblies that experience repeated connections and disconnections in different locations, was resulting in project inefficiencies and delays. “Ideally, the systems for which designs are standardized should be ready for connection in any location compliant with the same standard, without the need for adapters or other modifications,” Gilman emphasized.

Ensuring that the product is transferred without incurring damage to the piping possible leakage, is important for any pressurized liquid system involving LNG. “Not only is LNG highly volatile and ignitable, the extreme cryogenic temperatures of LNG also require special materials for handling – such as in the case of ship hull steel which can become immediately brittle, crack and fail when exposed to LNG,” Gilman noted.

Rick Foster, a veteran product specialist with metal hose manufacturer Hose Master LLC, explained how this has created an unsettled environment for equipment suppliers. “At our firm, we have had to research the role that hoses, fittings, gaskets, alarms and safety gear play in the loading process, and the environment in which the function is occurring. Before recommending a metal hose specification to a customer, we need to know how a hose assembly will work – and how it could possibly fail in the application. Also, we need to take into consideration how the hose assembly will be handled during fit-up and dismantling,” Foster said.

To maximize efficiencies and reduce project lead times, industry players must be able to consult accepted piping and hose assembly standards for guidance. The leadership of unbiased organizations like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Society for Testing and Measurement International (ASTM) are invaluable in guiding varied interests toward developing new standards that everyone can accept as “best practices” for the industry.

The ASTM is no stranger to this sort of challenge. Indeed, over its more than 100 years of existence, it has successfully developed more than 12,000 globally used standards. In short, the ASTM is a logical choice to lead the creation of an operational safety standard. Plus, it has an established track record of developing highly regarded standards tied specifically to the oil and gas industry.

F25 Committee at the Centre

The centerpiece of the ASTM’s involvement is its Committee on Ships and Marine Technology (F25). This committee’s mission is to develop and maintain standard specifications, test methods, terminology, practices and guides that support the maritime industry in the design, construction, operation and repair of marine vessels, structures, systems, equipment and materials.

According to Todd Ripley, an R&D specialist with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD), who also serves as the current chairperson of the ASTM’s F25 Committee, the objective is to support the most secure, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly practices possible in the marine segment. In view of this objective, the F25 Committee was the logical vehicle to identify needs and gaps in the standards that support the operation of LNG-fueled vessels being built and coming into service. To collaborate effectively with the wider maritime industry, the F25 Committee established an LNG Working Group under the subcommittee for Piping and Machinery (F25.11) along with several task groups. Their mission was to start development on newly identified work items as well as to ensure that the specific stakeholders in the LNG-as-fuel arena have an opportunity to contribute their expertise to the effort.

A Pivotal Role as a Facilitator

Due to its professional trade society status, the ASTM is able to play a uniquely strong role in facilitating the exchange of ideas and information to come up with standards and practices that can be agreed upon by all parties. According to Todd Ripley, this consensus is borne out of several key philosophies of the F25 Committee:

  • Development activities must benefit and meet the needs of the entire maritime industry.
  • All segments of the maritime industry are encouraged to participate in committee, subcommittee and task group activities, enabling an equal balance of producers, users and general interest personnel as committee members.
  • All new standards must be relevant and provide value to the maritime industry.
  • Commit to work with a wide range of organizations throughout the maritime industry to advance the most comprehensive and effective industry standards possible.

(Read Part 2 on October 7th)