New Ships Serving San Juan Running 80%-Plus on LNG,
MAN Upfit Solution Sought for Two Vessels Serving Alaska
Tote Maritime has experienced only relatively minor glitches for its two new liquefied natural gas-fueled container ships connecting Jacksonville, Fla. and Puerto Rico. Both Isla Bella and sister Perla Del Caribe are making regular weekly runs, fueling truck-to-ship in Florida.
Together the 764-foot, 3,100-TEU, Marlin-class ships have logged more than two years of service and have accounted for more than 1,500 trailer loads of LNG fuel — about 80% of their requirement.
That’s the word from Tote operations chief Pete Keller, who also advises F&F that it’s a different story in the Pacific Northwest, where the company operates two larger, Orca-class ships connecting Tacoma, Wash. and Alaska – and is seeking an answer from engine developer MAN Diesel & Turbo as to how best convert them to LNG-diesel dual fuel operation.
No Major Issues with Caribbean Ships’ New Engine Type
“Nickel-and-dime” issues have bedeviled the two-stroke slow speed MAN ME-GI engines powering the two Marlin-class ships in the Caribbean, limiting LNG operation to the still-respectable 80%, says Keller. “We are the beta test,” he says, noting that ME-GI (M-type, gas-injected) is a new technology, in newbuild revenue service for the first time with Tote, and that the ships’ dual fuel auxiliary engines (three per vessel), also by MAN, are operating at better than 95% LNG.
Isla Bella entered service in October 2015 and Perla Del Caribe in February 2016 (both were built by GD Nassco in San Diego). Each is bunkered once a week in Jacksonville – approximately 250,000 LNG truck-to-ship gallons in five hours. Each of the Marlin-class ships has twin 900-cubic-meter LNG fuel tanks for a total capacity of about 465,000 gallons.
The LNG for Tote is produced by Pivotal LNG at a peak-shave facility in Macon, Ga. It is trucked to Florida in ISO trailers by Houston-based GenOx Transportation (HHP Insight, January 12, 2016).
A specially designed skid ACT/Applied Cryo Technologies allows the LNG bunkering to take place at the same time that cargo containers are loaded and unloaded – sim-ops, for simultaneous operations.
Bunker Barge to Replace Bunker Skid
“An excess of 1,500 trailer loads have been bunkered to these ships,” Keller says – more than 15 million gallons or nearly 57,000 cubic meters of fuel.
Construction of a LNG facility at Jacksonville’s Dames point has meanwhile started by Jax LNG, a partnership of Pivotal LNG and Northstar Midstream.
The new shoreside plant will produce LNG that will be transferred to Isla Bella and Perla Del Caribe using a dedicated-LNG bunker barge – the Clean Jacksonville – now being completed at the Conrad shipyard in Texas (F&F, January 10).
Tote’s Marlin-class ships “will operate to and from San Juan for their useful life providing unparalleled environmental benefits to Florida, the Caribbean waters they transit and Puerto Rico,” Keller said at this month’s Platts LNG conference in Houston.
El Faro Tragedy Stymies Northwest Plans
Plans to convert Tote’s larger Orca-class vessels connecting Washington State and Alaska to LNG operation were announced in 2012 (HHPi, August 20, 2012) and modified to include new Wärtsilä dual fuel engines in 2014 (HHPi, February 18, 2014). Current problems stem from the tragic loss of Tote’s El Faro off the Bahamas on October 1, 2015.
Tote had planned for El Faro to stand in for Midnight Sun as the first of the two Orca-class ships was fitted with new 50DF Wärtsilä dual fuel engines. When El Faro was lost, Tote pushed the three-month re-engining project back a year, to commence in December 2016 (Keller detailed the plans at the 2015 High Horsepower Summit in Dallas; HHPi, October 21, 2015), with El Faro sister ship El Yunque to assume that role.
El Yunque Out of Action
Subsequently, however, pending an NTSB/National Transportation Safety Board determination on the cause of the El Faro tragedy, Tote took El Yunque out of service, leaving the operator without a relief ship for the Alaska trade.
Meanwhile “technology has evolved, our experience has evolved,” Keller says, and “we’re re-examining the MAN option” to convert the 839-foot Orca ships’ existing MAN 9L 58/64 engines to dual fuel diesel-LNG operation.
‘Still 100% Committed’
In addition to MAN, Tote is working with GE, Keppel, Wärtsilä and Victoria Shipyards on the Orca conversions, Keller said in Houston.
“We’re still 100% committed to the idea of LNG,” Keller told F&F.
“We’re going to do this. It’s just a question of what the methodology will be.”
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Source: Fleets & Fuels interview and background