Ludington, Mich.-based Lake Michigan Carferry has received a $75,000 grant from the Wisconsin State Energy Office to begin the engineering work to convert to the coal-fired S.S. Badger to liquefied natural gas. LMC has tapped LNG boiler veteran G.R. Bowler of Ontario, N.Y. to support the initiative.
The 410-foot vessel, which entered service in 1953, plies a regular Lake Michigan route between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisc. from mid-May to mid-October. It can carry 180 cars and 600 passengers.
LMC is under pressure to reduce emissions and to eliminate the lake disposal of coal ash.
The Wisconsin funding follows news of an $800,000 federal grant to the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute, also to study the use of LNG on Great Lakes vessels (F&F, December 12). “The Badger will serve as the model vessel in the study, which is funded by the U.S. Maritime Administration,” LMC says. The basic choice, says G.R. Bowler founder and president Gary Bowler, is to repower at a cost of about $25 million or switch to LNG for existing boilers for about $5 million.
Obviously, he told F&F, “The most cost effective solution is keep the reliable steam plant with LNG for fuel.”
And, emissions are less than in a diesel-LNG dual fuel engine, and maintenance costs are lower, he says.
Bowler’s experience is primarily with LNG carriers, which use their own cargo to augment diesel. Jobs have included upfits and engine conversions, installing digital controls in older ships, and allowing them to burn cleaner fuels. It’s a relatively minor step, Bowler says, to extend such work to LNG-powered vessels carrying other cargoes.
Bowler has LNG bunkering (fueling) expertise as well.
Not Whether to Use LNG, But Where and How
The Wisconsin grant “is conditioned on ultimate fuel conversion from coal,” LMC says. The engineering work will exceed the grant award, LMC says – so LMC is covering approximately 30% of the project cost.
The engineering work is to be completed in June.
LMC is evaluating bunkering options for the Badger, taking input from several LNG equipment vendors, McCarthy says.
“We are working in multiple different directions on this at the same time,” he told F&F. LMC, has not yet determined, for example, whether it will be better to locate the LNG bunkering in Ludington or Manitowoc.
It’s clear, however, that Great Lakes bunkering will be located somewhere. “It is definitely a developing fuel for the maritime industry,” McCarthy says, “and the speed at which it’s developing is starting to pick up.”
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