The Motorship discusses the way forward for LNG at sea with Oskar Levander, vice-president of innovation, Rolls-Royce. Ship technology and design moves forward thanks to two main development drivers. First, there is the technology ‘push’: new technologies and materials; new design procedures, which includes such technologies as CFD and simulations; and the ability to handle, analyse and communicate large amounts of data. But this has little purpose without the market ‘pull’: in the case of shipping this includes factors such as: regulations and environmental considerations; costs of fuel and the possibility of alternatives; cost of manning, and competence levels of the crew; the need to earn revenue; and safety and reliability.
One of the most important ‘pull’ focusing the attention towards development of new designs and technologies is the introduction of emission control areas, where sulphur, and in the near future NOx, emissions will be very tightly controlled. With the choice of heavy and distillate fuels, with scrubbers and SCR installations cutting emissions when using the cheaper and more polluting fuels, and the possibility for gas fuels, in both dual fuel and pure gas engines, the palette is becoming more diverse. There is no clear answer as to which option to choose, the optimum choice will depend on a host of economic and operational variables, all of which are well documented.
Mr Levander is convinced that LNG as fuel will play a significant role in the future, particularly as ship and engine design evolve to take full advantage of its benefits. The number of LNG-fueled ships in operation and on order is growing all the time; earlier this year the total passed the 100 mark, covering many different sectors from tugs up to large container ships and tankers.