The last coal-fired steamship in U.S. operation may be converted to natural gas, says the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute, part of an initiative with the U.S. DoT’s Maritime Administration unit.
GLMRI has a new five-year pact with MARAD to address environmental issues facing shipping. MARAD wants attention paid the first year to the conversion of steam ships to liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas fuel, GLMRI says. Both vessel conversion and infrastructure issues will be examined, notably “the LNG supply chain needed to support the fuel demand for the fleet with the potential for this fuel to be used by other modes of transportation.”
February Conference in Cleveland
The lead candidate for conversion is the S.S. Badger. The 410-foot ferry entered service in 1953, GLMRI says, “designed specifically to handle the rough conditions that it would likely encounter during year-round sailing on Lake Michigan.” It is the only coal-fired steamship in operation in the U.S., sailing daily between Manitowoc, Wisc. and Ludington, Mich. from mid-May through mid-October. GLMRI is working with the Lake Michigan Carferry Service and marine engineers to gauge the feasibility of converting the S.S. Badger to CNG or LNG, examining fuel consumption, routes, and shore fueling infrastructure issues.
The demonstration project will also consider training needs and shipyard implications of the power conversions, GLMRI says, noting that “Converting the vessel to natural gas as a primary fuel could have the potential to make the S.S. Badger one of the greenest vessels operating on the Great Lakes.”
GLMRI and the Great Lakes and Rivers Section of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers are planning multi-day education and information transfer sessions in Cleveland in February, bringing in academic, industry and government expertise from the U.S., Europe and Canada to discuss natural gas fueling for Great Lakes ships. Sessions are being planned in conjunction with the Great Lakes Waterways Conference being held February 22-23 at Cleveland’s Hyatt Regency at the Arcade.