25 September 2016

28 Oct 2015

The L[o]NG walk to cleaner fuels


With MARPOL Annex VI just around the corner there are clear signposts of change to come within the fuel sphere. Many may argue that as a lesser contributor to green house emissions – when compared to energy supply and other such causes – the marine industry should be left well alone, at least for the time being. I would argue that being less to blame does not make you blameless, legally or morally. Conservatism, the curse of the short-sighted and those fearful of the future, must be circumvented by risk takers and visionaries. Fortune, after all, favours the bold.

Speaking at October’s Gastech, a conference for international oil, gas and energy professionals, Angus Campbell, managing director of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement UK (BSM), advocated the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a maritime fuel of the future, as well as declaring it a lucrative and prudent opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“Independent industry predictions indicate that the use of LNG as a bunker fuel offers opportunities for early movers to secure a market leading position ashore and afloat, and global LNG fuelling will become a mainstream option,” Campbell announced. “It has happened before,” he said. “Wind gave way to coal and coal in its turn gave way to oil. The move from oil to natural gas is simply the next progression.”

Disruptive changes of this nature have historically required large investments by forward thinking individuals and businesses. The industrial revolution, to use an obvious example, saw a step change from wood and other bio fuels to coal, as well as a shift from manual labour to machine manufacturing. The creation of these new machines and systems was not a cheap process, but the rewards for pioneers of the time were many.

Campbell noted that any shift towards LNG bunkering for maritime use will require the development of a sophisticated supply chain, dealing with simultaneous operations and other factors not traditionally associated with bunkering in the LNG sector.

“These are some of the factors that have driven BSM, working in partnership with Triton and Babcock LGE, to develop its own unique Gas Fuel Supply Vessel design which will support LNG fuelled ships, and the delivery of gas to small onshore facilities and large off-pipe consumers,” he said.

Campbell also highlighted that alternative methods, namely the use of distillate fuels and scrubbers simply do not have the benefits of LNG. “Distillate fuels are expensive and there is a likelihood that the price will increase due to demand as emission regulations are enforced. Scrubbers may seem a simple alternative but the cost benefit calculation is actually very complex – with no guarantee that this will be accepted as a long term method of emission reduction.”

The jury is still out on which alternative fuel will reign triumphant, but in the vein of Edison versus Tesla it is for innovators and investors to force the agenda until progress is realised.

Two focus groups at next month's Global Superyacht Forum will debate and discuss  the latest in clean fuel technology. Click here to view the programme in full and secure your place by clicking here.


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