Stricter emissions standards for marine vessels make natural gas a more attractive fuel choice, Guy Caruso, an adviser to the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ energy and national security program, told the Natural Gas Roundtable in Washington, DC, recently.

New marine engine technology allows natural gas to be used as a primary or alternative fuel source, which will help to grow demand for gas in the marine sector, he said.

“Natural gas is poised to play a pivotally important role in the U.S. and global energy and environmental outlook,” said Caruso, who served as administrator of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) from 2002 to 2008.

John Hatley, Americas vice president for ship power for Wartsila North America, told roundtable attendees that gas is a preferred fuel along crowded coasts and in busy ports.

“Here we see every day work boats up to large commercial ships of all sizes, and cruise vessels,” Hatley said. “These engines are often extremely large scale, ranging from a low of 3,000 HP to over 100,000 HP, and are highly energy-intensive…Marine operators are closely scrutinizing the possible transition to natural gas in order to achieve a win-win: emissions reduction and operational savings.”

Worldwide last year the commercial marine market consumed nearly the equivalent of 15 Tcf of gas. As about 8% of the world’s marine shipping involves trade with the United States, nearly 1.2 Tcf of natural gas represents the 60,000 vessel calls made at American ports during the year, according to data provided by the speakers. Estimates show that an achievable level for the U.S. marine market demand for gas approaches 246 Bcf over the next half decade, according to the speakers’ data.

“The marine market for natural gas represents an incredible opportunity for the U.S. to reduce emissions on the water and in port as well as improve the economy by making use of our abundant and domestic natural gas supplies,” said David Sweet, president of the Natural Gas Roundtable. “The development of unconventional gas reserves will make vast new quantities of natural gas available that can readily serve the marine sector.”

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