With the widening web of emission controls and the forward projections confirming upward price movement of both heavy fuels and distillates, there has been a natural interest in the use of LNG as fuel for a growing number of vessel types. It is clean and could be the cheapest option in the future. Duel fuel machinery is already on the market, and the regulatory problems that surround the use of LNG are being tackled.
There is still concern about the lack of an LNG bunker infrastructure, but those with an eye on history point out that much the same was said about coal when sail gave way to steam, and oil, when this fuel replaced coal as the fuel of choice. Given the demand, the suppliers will be quick to provide what is necessary.
But LNG is not the only solution to the problems of fuel costs and environmental constraints, a study by Lloyd’s Register has concluded. It is research that has tried to look at this new marine fuel from an objective standpoint and concludes that for deep sea trades, LNG is a solution, but far from the only solution, for owners looking to plan ahead.
Much will depend upon the size of ship, the type of trade and the amount of time that is spent in sulphur-controlled areas during the voyage. The study has considered different rates of growth for emission controlled areas, future newbuilding demand and the commercial savings that can be made, depending on different fuel prices. It suggests that the logistic problems of supplying LNG to deep sea vessels would not be unduly onerous, as the current network of principal bunkering ports is positioned reasonably close to LNG import and export terminals.
Lloyd’s Register has employed an interactive model to determine the growth in newbuilding and future fuel demand. The researchers, however, suggest that a “strong uptake of demand” is probably unlikely before 2020, when global sulphur limits go into force. After this date, it is suggested that demand could increase exponentially, with even the “base case” pointing to some 653 LNG fuelled deep sea newbuilding vessels by 2025. Put into perspective, while the low case scenario suggested that only a handful of LNG ships would be built by this date, the more optimistic high case scenario considered that nearly 2000 vessels fuelled in this fashion would be operational. Container vessels, cruise ships and tankers would form the main thrust of this change.
The research has focussed on both shipowners and ports, the proximity of the main trade routes and sources of LNG and surveys to determine the way that key industry players will respond to the emission regulations. The conclusions offer a “feet on the ground” assessment of both the benefits and potential of LNG as a deep sea marine fuel. Realistically, it suggests that until LNG bunker fuel is more readily available and economically viable “we will not see its penetration as a future propulsion fuel into the deep sea trades”. This is a useful and important study.
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