DOHA: With the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) deciding to regulate maritime transport’s emission rate from January 2015, RasGas is planning to convert over a dozen of its diesel-powered energy carriers into LNG-powered vessels.
The IMO’s regulations to cut the emission rate of the ships will force thousands of ship owners to convert their vessels into the clean LNG-powered engines.
RasGas has a fleet of 27 LNG carriers. They include 14 conventional carriers, 12 Q-Flex and one Q-Max carrier. The conventional carriers are already powered by steam plants. However, using new technology, RasGas is planning to convert its Q-Flex and Q-Max vessels. Currently, these 13 vessels are being powered by slow-speed diesel engines. They can currently fire only heavy fuel or marine gas oil. The idea is to convert them to be able to use gas, directly vaporised from LNG, as fuel.
“A prototype will be soon be tested and, if the results are positive, RasGas management will decide whether to convert all the Q-Flex and Q-Max vessels”, a report published in the latest edition of RasGas’ in-house journal noted.
According to IMO, some 90 percent of world trade is carried by sea. The most widely used marine fuels are heavy fuel oil, which has a high sulphur content, and diesel. The stricter environmental regulations are persuading ship owners to consider alternatives, like LNG.
LNG is one of the best alternatives. Shipping Intelligence Weekly reported that there are some 58,000 cargo ships sailing across the international waters, of which only around 300 ships are powered by LNG. Of these, around 240 were LNG carriers drawing on their cargo.
IMO rules require a cut in sulphur dioxide emissions by January 2015 to 0.1 percent in special emission control area (ECA) zones, including the Baltic and North Seas, and North American and Canadian Coastal waters by January 2015, and worldwide to 3.5 percent. Thousands of ships will be affected by the new limits, and a global sulphur content limit of 0.5 percent could be in place by 2020. The decision will be made in 2018.
Some owners plan to install scrubbers to remove sulphur oxides from exhaust gases. Others may buy low-sulphur fuels. Yet others are ordering new LNG-fuelled ships.
LNG’s environmental credentials include virtually zero sulphur oxide emissions, and reductions of up to 95 percent for in nitrogen oxides emissions and 20 percent for carbon dioxide emissions when compared with conventional shipping fuels. According to RasGas report, on current estimates, around 90,000 vessels worldwide could potentially convert to LNG.
But there are challenges. LNG fuel has a lower energy density than oil, so LNG-powered ships other than LNG carriers are less likely to be used on longer journeys unless their owners are ready to double their fuel-storage capacity — an important obstacle for long-distance trade.