There has been a lot of talk in the shipping industry as of late regarding its carbon footprint and how it can be reduced. Historically, shipping vessels have been one of the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases, however, the industry at large has recently taken steps to right these wrongs and reduce their emissions. One of the most effective ways of reducing the industry’s carbon footprint is to change the type of fuel they use. That is where LNG comes in. LNG stands for liquefied natural gas, which is a natural gas fuel that has been transformed into a liquid state through a refrigeration process. During this refrigeration process, which takes place at a liquefaction plant, the gas is cooled to a temperature of -162 degrees Celsius. The result is a fuel that is odorless, non-toxic, and clear in color.
LNG is known for being both highly fuel efficient and lightweight. However, there are other aspects of liquefied natural gas to consider, especially when it comes to the shipping industry. As a marine engineer, Aaron Wens is an expert when it comes to alternative fuel for ships and liquefied natural gas specifically. Below, Wens goes into detail about the pros and cons of LNG fuel and the impact it will have on the present and future of the shipping industry.
The Pros of LNG Bunkering
- Global Gas Reserves: According to engineer Aaron Wens, one of the greatest benefits of switching to LNG fuel is that the global gas reserves of this type of fuel are massive. In fact, researchers estimate that the current LNG reserves in existence would be enough to last the shipping industry over 200 years.
- Fuel Efficiency: Liquefied natural gas is very fuel efficient, which makes it an environmentally conscious form of alternative fuel. Due to the process by which LNG is created, as detailed above, the fuel itself is very lightweight, shares Aaron Wens of Virginia Beach. This means that the tank weight is less, which makes room for more storage. Thus, LNG is especially suited to modes of transportation that make long haul trips, such as shipping vessels, or even trains and trucks. LNG is so fuel efficient that it meets both the current and future emissions standards as set out by the International Maritime Organization (it is even in line with the organization’s 2020 sulfur cap because liquefied natural gas is sulfur free).
- Cost Efficient: Aaron Wens claims that there is a common misconception that alternative fuel is more expensive than heavy fuel oil. In reality, many types of alternative fuel are on par or very close to the cost of these others. In fact, LNG is extremely competitive pricewise to the point that it can compete with fuel oil.
The Cons of LNG Bunkering
- New Storage Facilities: One of the main cons associated with LNG bunkering is that the extreme low temperature of the gas requires special materials and storage facilities. Creating and purchasing such materials and spaces can be costly. Leaks and ruptures are a risk and without new tools and procedures in place, LNG is especially dangerous given that it is odorless and colorless, making leaks difficult to detect by crew members, especially if they are untrained.
- Separation of Air and Gas: With liquefied natural gas, it is necessary to ensure that the air and the gas are strictly separated at all times. In addition, there needs to be a secure way of dealing with boil off gas (BOG), since venting to the air is not an option.
In conclusion, Aaron Wens believes that LNG Bunkering is an important step forward within the shipping industry and although there are some logistics that need to be addressed, he is confident that the industry will rise to the challenge.