What is LNG bunkering
LNG bunkering is the process of transferring liquefied natural gas to a ship for use as fuel. It is a popular method of fueling ships because it is a less pollutant method compared to the other traditional methods of fueling like marine gas oil and heavy fuel oil. There is also a steady supply of natural gas, and the industry has forecasted a stable price for LNG as a fuel.
Environment regulators have been putting the pressure on the maritime industry to reduce the amount of pollution caused by ship transportation, and the newly imposed strict rules on the content of Sulphur in marine bunker fuel is driving the popularity of the LNG bunkering system and construction of infrastructure to facilitate the same.
Procedure for ship to ship bunkering
The procedure starts with the signing of documents and checklists by officers on both ships after all the equipment has been checked and confirmed to be in proper working condition. The documents state the amount of fuel that will be transferred and at what transfer rate. Other important technical details include the pressure at manifold, the start and topping rate and max.
After the values have been agreed upon, the manual bunker valves are opened. The ships need to be in constant and uninterrupted communication so that each can give the ready signal to start pumping the fuel. After the ready signals, all the personnel will need to clear the bunker area so that the cargo pumps can be started. The whole process is closely monitored for any leaks or equipment failure until the agreed transfer rate is reached. In the case of any failure, the transfer is shut down immediately, the equipment checked and then the process restarted.
Other types of LNG bunkering include truck to ship and terminal to ship. Some standards already exist and new ones are being developed to ensure that the whole process of refueling LNG powered ships and even evacuating LNG fuel from ships is safe to both the personnel and the environment. Some of the regulatory organizations include the Society of International Gas Tankers and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
With the rise in the use of LNG as a shipping fuel the demand for this service will only increase.
At present there are around 77 ships using LNG as a fuel with this set to rise significantly with estimate that by 2020 there will be around 1000 vessels powered by LNG.