LNG as ship fuel

the pros and cons of burning gas

Read time: 8 minutes

News & blog Blog LNG as ship fuel: the pros and cons of burning gas

LNG as ship fuel: the pros and cons of burning gas

Hanna Kivelä

Hanna Kivelä

Managing Director

Read time: 8 minutes
As sulphur content in fuel oil is to be reduced dramatically in accordance with the 2020 sulphur cap, LNG (liquefied natural gas) is considered a viable alternative for shipping. What are the pros and cons of burning gas?

Major pros of LNG

Despite the need for installing new systems and implementing new risk management procedures, LNG is a viable alternative for fuel oils as:

  • Global gas reserves are huge and would last us some 200 years
  • LNG consumption meets the current and future emission standards – including IMO’s 2020 sulphur cap, as LNG contains no sulphur
  • Price-wise, LNG can compete with fuel oil

Major cons of LNG

The major cons of switching to LNG include (but are not limited to):

  • the dangers of the extreme low temperatures (-162 degC), requiring special materials for storage facilities to avoid ruptures and leaks
    • which would also pose enormous dangers to staff (the extreme cold as well as the risk of asphyxiation, as the gas is odourless and colourless)
    • and the risk of BLEVE: boiling liquid | expanding vapour explosion, caused by rapid evaporation (a rupture in the storage facility results in decreased internal pressure, causing the liquid to evaporate at a rate that cannot be handled by the valve capacity)
  • the need for more storage space of up to 150% of fuel oil storage space
  • the need for strict separation of air and gas, as well as a means to deal with boil off gas (BOG) as venting to air is not an option (burning methane can only be extinguished by removing either methane or oxygen)

Suffice to say that the above results in substantially higher newbuild costs for LNG-fuelled vessels and high costs for adapting existing vessels.

LNG bunkering: infrastructure?

Another con at present is the as yet limited LNG bunkering infrastructure, which is concentrated in the US Gulf, East Coast and north west Europe. The reason being that these areas are ECAs (Emission Control Areas), where the sulphur cap is already 0.1%. However, key Asian ports are rapidly catching up.

Still, as the technology for ships’ engines and bunkering is already available, LNG is a viable fuel option to meet the environmental standards.

Would you like to know more?

If you have any questions about the use of LNG as ship fuel, please do not hesitate to contact me. Alternatively, I highly recommend the blog post written by Van Ameyde Marine’s Managing Director Walter Dekkers ‘‘LNG bunkering: why burn gas?’ in which he discusses the various aspects of LNG as alternative ship fuel in great detail.


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