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LNG for Marine Transportation Keeps Sailing Along

Apropos of an increasingly plentiful global supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the marine shipping industry increasingly is moving to more use of LNG to fuel oceangoing vessels, drawing interest from major industrial companies as demonstrated at the recent Gastech 2017 conference in Tokyo.

Lloyd's Register, the UK-based global engineering, technical and business services organization, earlier this week reported some major milestones in the shift to LNG-fueled ships at the international conference. Lloyd's said it is joining Woodside Energy Ltd., Anangel Maritime Services Inc., Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., and General Electric Co. to start a joint project to develop alternatives to oil-fueled ships.

The collaboration is to pursue a joint design program for exploring the suitability of LNG-fueled large ships, such as so-called "very large ore carriers”. Lloyd's cited incentives for finding alternatives to oil have come from the introduction of more ship emission limitations for nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide , along with the growing oversupply of natural gas globally.

Regarding the latter, Qatar recently said it is lifting the moratorium on development of part of its biggest natural gas field, meaning its output will jump by 2 Bcf/d, or 10%, over the coming years.

"There is a continued need for ship designs to evolve to provide further alternatives to traditional oil-fueled designs," according to Lloyd's, which at this point is indicating natural gas presents the "most favorable" alternative.

"The adoption of novel gas storage, supply and propulsion technologies are not only environmentally friendly but also provide a wealth of possibilities for cost-efficient design and operation."

The next stage of the joint design program will investigate what a Lloyd's spokesperson called "the design and benefits of highly efficient next-generation LNG-fueled propulsion systems."

Separately, Lloyd's Register announced at Gastech that is has designated its "approval in principle" to UK-based Babcock International Group's LGE Process as a trademark-registered ecoSMRT, an LNG reliquefaction system. Considered a LNG technology innovator, Babcock's new technology is recognized as meeting strict industry codes and standards, a Lloyd's spokesperson indicated.

The technology addresses the growing issue of excess boil-off gas (BOG) resulting from the use of dual-fuel propulsion engines that apply the ecoSMRT LNG reliquefaction plant that allows LNG carrier ships to save the excess BOG through the re-liquefying of it.

Babcock's ecoSMRT system is scalable and can be optimized for LNG carriers, using what the company describes as well-proven and reliable technology of mixed refrigerant (MR) refrigeration that is based on a novel arrangement of the components, a Lloyd's spokesperson said. As a result, the system is less complex, smaller in footprint and costs less.

Babcock's Alan Duckett, director of the LGE Process technical and sales development, said the company is focused on introducing new technology solutions for both LNG carriers and shuttle tankers.

Elsewhere in the compressed natural gas (CNG) sector, technology advances and new applications are taking place for both heavy duty natural gas vehicles (NGV) and in the production of renewable natural gas (RNG) or biomethane.

With interest growing in RNG as part of the NGV fuel mix, the engineering and process design for upgrading and cleaning biogas are increasingly important, according to officials at Montreal, Canada-based Xebec Adsorption, which is touting its improved technology for making RNG. Xebec has developed a new "pressure swing adsorption" (PSA) process design.

With 27 RNG production locations globally using its technology, Xebec can achieve recovery rates of upgraded biogas up to 98.5% "while operating at low pressure, allowing more profitable operations of the production facilities," according to company officials.

A fueling equipment supplier in Colorado, Redmark CNG Services, recently named Cobham as its supplier of Type IV CNG cylinders that are 21-inch diameter tanks that come in varying lengths. A 17-inch diameter version also is expected to be available later this year.

Another CNG fuel tank maker, Luxfer, is now supplying its G-Stor Go brand Type IV cylinder to the concrete mixer manufacturer McNeilus Truck, which is using a new vertically mounted back-of-the-cab design for its installation of the Luxfer fueling tanks. The G-Stor Go cylinders hold 82 diesel gallon equivalents (DGE) of CNG, an increase of 7 DGEs compared to its previous model.

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