ProCombi, a river transport and shortsea operator based in Aix-en-Provence, has commissioned the conversion of a river boat, the Calypso, to liquefied natural gas (LNG) operation. The project, a first for France, will be delivered by Proviridis with assistance from Cryostar, a manufacturer of cryogenic equipment.
Proviridis CEO, Dr. Eric Ronco, says the installation of the dual-fuel system can be carried out in a few days without the need for dry-docking, keeping downtime to a minimum. The LNG system mainly comprises a double-walled stainless steel 20m3 fuel tank at the rear of the boat, a vaporizer for the gassification of LNG and a pressure regulator to provide continuous and constant pressure to the fuel injection system attached to the engine.
An on-board computer collects and export statistics on the operation of the ship and fuel consumption, and interacts with the dual -fuel system to improve its performance. A patent application for the dual-fuel system has been submitted. Proviridis explains the system is capable of replacing up to 80% non-road diesel fuel with natural gas without degrading the original performance, by maximizing the injection of natural gas during all modes of vessel operation of the machine (from slow tight manoeuvring through docks and bridges to full cruising speed). Operating at average 70% diesel replacement, the vessel will consume approximately 16m3 LNG to travel 1500 kms — that’s enough for two weeks autonomy or about 100 operational hours. The engine retains the capacity to operate on diesel oil alone, thereby extending the range between refueling even further, if required.
The dual-fuel system is expected to deliver 24% fuel cost saving per year while reducing emissions of CO2 by 25%, NOx by 80% and PM by 95%. The return on investment is expected to be three years thanks to the fuel economy.
The conversion to LNG will be carried out in accordance with the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)’s Interim Guidelines on Safety for Natural gas-Fuelled Engine Installations in Ships and DNV-GL rules, explained Ronco.
“Although IMO and DNV-GL guidelines will be followed, it is currently illegal to use LNG as fuel on a river boat in France; there are no actual European codes to follow,” Ronco says. “Proviridis is working to convince the CCNR (Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine — the body in charge to deliver European river navigation permits) that its solution will be safe enough to permit a derogation to run on LNG. This is likely to take 9 to 12 months; we anticipate being able to carry out the dual-fuel conversion early 2015.”
“The good news”, Ronco adds, “is that we are not the first one and that the CCNR is pushing for the use of LNG powered boats. Today the main issue is that LNG is yet seen as a dangerous good and not as a fuel, so European legislation has to evolve to simplify the use of LNG to power boat and ships. This is what they are trying to do.”
The riverboat Calypso currently operates on the Rhône River and its right tributary, the Saône, transporting all types of bulk materials. To date it has been refuelling from trucks at various locations along the Rhône; it is expected a similar pattern will continue with LNG refuelling, although for safety reasons the refuelling will now be concentrated on one or two locations.
Proviridis is working on various other projects including marine ships and LNG refueling stations. It was founded in 2012 by companies involved in intermodal transport and massification of goods in order to reduce the environmental footprint and operating costs of equipment used in this field (boats, ships, locomotives, trucks and machinery handling).