Masters Thesis in US Highlights Viability of Natural Gas as a Marine Fuel

| USA | Source: The Maritime Executive

Conclusion: Natural gas is … the natural choice as a fuel of the future for the marine industry in general and the U.S. in particular.

A Masters of Science in Marine Engineering student at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), Edward J. Eastlack, has written what the The Maritime Executive describes as a “powerful thesis” for the Masters of Science in Marine Engineering program addressing the lack of LNG fuel usage in the United States. The thesis was submitted to USMMA, Kings Point NY in August 2011. The Abstract follows.

Natural Gas: A Viable Marine Fuel in the United States


Reduced emission standards for the marine industry have caused liquefied natural gas or LNG to emerge as a viable marine fuel for ship propulsion systems. European countries like Norway already have over 20 natural gas powered vessels in service and more on order; however, the United States doesn’t have many LNG powered vessels yet, but it has recently made a commitment to build some LNG powered Offshore Supply Vessels in Orange, Texas for operation in the Gulf of Mexico.

There has been an obvious paradigm shift towards using LNG fuel and LNG powered engines in the industrial sector and now it has moved to the marine sector. The driving forces are low emissions standards and economic factors. Since the EPA marine emissions regulations are the most stringent in the world, LNG has emerged as a viable marine fuel.

Recent discoveries that U.S. natural gas reserves are as much as 50% greater than earlier estimates were thought, have spurred energy experts and policy makers to reduce dependence on foreign oil by lowering ‘greenhouse gas” emissions. The result is the U.S. Marine Industry has begun to move in the direction of LNG and LNG operated vessels. Advancements in marine power plant technology with nearly every marine prime mover now with dual fuel capability without loss of performance combined with the realization that the U.S. has a vast supply of readily available, cost effective, clean burning LNG make for a compelling case for the transition of LNG as a viable marine fuel in the USA.

Other issues such as needed missing bunkering infrastructure in the U.S still need to be solved; however, a recent agreement between Wärtsilä and Shell to support LNG powered engines may be the beginning that leads to solving such issues. There have also been some developments on the regulatory side with the recent formation of the International Standards Organization TC67 Committee, Work Group 10 (of approximately 30 people) has started the work of standardizing LNG bunkering procedures and equipment for the worldwide oil and gas industries. The committee is developing a document called Guidelines for Systems and Installations for Supply of LNG as Fuel to Ships. This guideline will provide guidance on how to:

  • Meet safety requirements specified by authorities (National and Port).
  • Reference to Guidelines for Risk Assessment.
  • Establish operational and control procedures to ensure safe, practical and aligned operations in different ports.
  • Identify requirements to components (Storage tanks, piping, hoses, loading arms, connectors etc) to ensure equipment compliance
  • Other factors as agreed by the work-group such as:
    o Requirements for maintenance
    o Training and qualification schemes
    o Emergency preparedness (DNV, 2011)
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