LNG – The Preferred Choice for Marine Fuel


The shipping industry is seeing a large number of changes that is changing the way the industry operates as a whole and in parts. One of the most significant changes is the move towards LNG as the marine fuel of choice. The industry, which once used coal to fuel ships, turned to oil a century ago and is now opting for LNG, the most environment-friendly option to-date.

The reasons for this move to LNG are several. Biogas World states, “Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has long been regarded as a simple modality for large long-distance carriers and has become a very promising marine fuel in Canada and around the world. At present, LNG is one of the best alternatives for shipowners because of its environmental assets and significant economic benefits.

The use of liquefied natural gas as a marine fuel for ships can meet and exceed current environmental airborne emissions standards. In fact, it emits virtually no air pollutants or fine particles, while reducing GHG emissions by up to 25% compared to the marine diesel. Moreover, it poses no potential hazard to the environment. The technologies required to use LNG as a marine fuel are proven and available on the market, including quieter biofuel and natural gas-fueled engines suitable for many types of coastal and deep-sea vessels.”

Leading classification society DNV-GL explains, “LNG as a fuel is both a proven and available commercial solution. LNG offers huge advantages, especially for ships in the light of ever-tightening emission regulations. Conventional oil-based fuels will remain the main fuel option for most vessels in the near future, and, at the same time, the commercial opportunities of LNG are interesting for many projects. While different technologies can be used to comply with air emission limits, LNG technology is a smart way to meet existing and upcoming requirements for the main types of emissions (SOx, NOx, PM, CO2). LNG can be competitive pricewise with distillate fuels and, unlike other solutions, in many cases does not require the installation of additional process technology.”

LNG Bunkering. Image Courtesy: Skangas

While the advantages are plenty, one must consider the disadvantages of using LNG too. A potential disadvantage to using LNG is space. Since gas weighs more, volume-wise it requires more space as compared to bunker oil. The farther the journey, the equally larger amount of storage space is required. So far, tanks are designed to be built in the cargo spaces of the ships for using gas as fuel. This is a major setback for ship operators in terms of freight earned by the cargo. Engineers and architects are working towards developing systems that would make room for storing (Liquified Natural Gas) LNG. This could be anywhere on the vessel, above-deck, in the superstructures, beneath the cargo containers, astern of the vessel, etc. and this would also call for extra insulation, piping and steelwork as far as construction of the vessels is concerned.

The availability of the fuelling stations for LNG are scarce. These will have to be set up at major ports or at regular bunkering points, feasibility studies and reports may have to be attained.

This year has seen a marked increase in the acceptance of LNG as the preferred marine fuel choice by companies and ports. With ports undertaking significant infrastructure projects in this direction, successful LNG bunkering, the first successful ship-to-ship bunkering by Skangas and leading companies making their ships LNG ready (CMA CGM recently opted for LNG for 9 of its biggest ships), the industry is inviting the change and taking every effort to ensure a successful transition to this “green” fuel.

Sea News Feature, November 29