I've seen quite a bit in the press about converting heavy and light-duty vehicles to natural gas, but this is the first I've seen about another major transport sector possibly converting--shipping.  Does anyone know if this could be a significant demand bump over time?


Ocean-Shipping Firms Try LNG as Fuel Source

SINGAPORE—When MS Selandia made her maiden voyage from Copenhagen to Bangkok in February 1912 she transformed the ocean-shipping industry, launching an era that would see the shift to oil from coal as the dominant fuel for ships.

Now, 100 years later, a few shipping companies are moving toward a new fuel source, deep-chilled liquefied natural gas, driven by tougher environmental standards, higher oil prices and greater availability of natural gas. Many in the industry see LNG as the ship fuel of the future, given seemingly vast and largely untapped reserves of shale gas world-wide, although its adoption may well be slower than oil's.

Liquefied natural gas has potential to become an energy source used on a larger scale in shipping, says the head of Maersk Maritime Technology.

"LNG is already being used as a fuel in certain segments, and it has potential to become an energy source used on a larger scale in shipping," said Bo Cerup-Simonsen, head of Maersk Maritime Technology, a unit of Denmark's A.P. Møller-Maersk A/S, operator of the world's largest container-shipping company........

Tags: LNG, Shipping

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Hadn't heard of it, but most of the big ships are using fuel oils, like #4 or #6 for fuel, which is cheaper than diesel .   However, a lot of modern ships are using electrically driven thrusters powered by generators, rather than simply on an engine, and my guess is that LNG would be excellent in this application.  It is probably a chicken and egg problem to some degree:  which ports can fuel ships with LNG?

Good point about the ports and refueling--Singapore is studying it now. Fingers crossed that this develops positively.

I get the impression what's driving the potential change is two things:

1) "Stricter pollution standards mean shipowners need to install expensive scrubbing equipment to cut emissions, use costlier low-sulfur oil or perhaps turn to gas."

2)"The dynamics of the global oil-refining industry are working in LNG's favor as refiners are investing millions of dollars to produce as little fuel oil as possible, leading to a gradual decline in supplies and higher prices."

The LNG transports are being built from the ground up, so yeah, no problem with using LNG/electric as the power source.  I don't know enough to fathom cost effectiveness.  

I just don't see the possibility of re-powering existing ships for LNG, unless the cost advantage in terms of fuel is huge, and the ship was due for a refit anyway.

Its a good presentation and worth a look by anyone interested in the issue.  The emission reductions are impressive, some of the technical challenges are articulated, and market forces are also addressed.  Its from a Japan centric focus, where LNG is relatively expensive, but the environmental concerns are pushing development.  

Of particular interest, is the ability to duel fuel, similar to some of the big rig applications. 


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