The American Clean Skies Foundation has released a study on how maritime vessels might be converted to natural gas “and benefit from low prices and low emissions.”
Natural Gas for Marine Vessels: U.S. Market Opportunities is by New England’s M.J. Bradley & Associates.
The ACSF study “offers the first in-depth look at the challenges and prospects for converting U.S.-flagged marine vessels to liquefied natural gas.”
In short, “The maritime industry can follow the path of other transportation sectors, which have looked to natural gas to move goods instead of relying on more expensive (and dirtier) diesel fuel,” ACSF says.
“On the environmental front, the maritime industry is facing federal regulations to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, which will require switching to ultra-low sulfur diesel,” states a study summary. “Low in sulfur, LNG can be used to comply with the regulations. Norwegian shipping fleets have been successfully operating on LNG for years.”
Acknowledged obstacles include the high cost of vessel conversion and the lack of LNG infrastructure, especially at marine ports.
“Conversion of vessels to LNG operation is expensive,” the study cautions. “It can cost up to $7 million to convert a medium-sized tug to operate on natural gas, almost $11 million to convert a large car and passenger ferry, and up to $24 million to convert a Great Lakes bulk carrier.
“Approximately one sixth of this cost relates to conversion of the vessel engines and the rest is for installation of LNG storage tanks and related safety systems and ship modifications.”
‘Owners Favoring Status Quo Must Weigh the Cost’
The most promising and economical conversions would be large towing tugs, medium-to-large car and passenger ferries, and Great Lakes bulk carriers, ACSF says, noting that one Great Lakes bulk carrier consumes about as much energy as 110 tractor-trailers – or more than 4,100 cars.
According to ACSF CEO Gregory Staple, “The economics of any specific project will hinge on three factors: vessel fuel use, delivered LNG prices and vessel conversion costs. Regulation will also be a factor as ship owners favoring the status quo must weigh the cost of complying with stricter EPA emissions regulations that will soon require more expensive low sulfur fuels for marine vessels.”
The most promising sites are where existing LNG liquefaction or storage facilities are located close to ports.
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