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Gas as a Marine Fuel - an introductory guide

Society For Gas As A Marine Fuel (SGMF) : 29 November, 2014  (Technical Article)
The Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel (SGMF) has published an introductory mini guide on gas as a marine fuel, intended for those who would like to know more about using gas as a marine fuel or intend to use gas as a fuel. This guide to gas as a marine fuel – an overview of these variations and their implications – is the first of many documents that the Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel (SGMF) plans to publish. This initial high-level document will link to more technically and commercially rigorous guidelines aimed at assisting the emerging gas-as-fuel industry to develop, with safety as the paramount concern.
Gas as a Marine Fuel - an introductory guide
Increasing concern over the impact of human activities on our environment is encouraging the maritime transport industry to move towards using natural gas on board ships as a prime source of energy for propulsion and electricity generation. This trend is being reinforced by national and international regulation, led by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), with its Emission Control Areas (ECAs).
The use of natural gas as a fuel is one way of complying with the increasingly strict regime governing emissions of harmful atmospheric pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx), and reduces the carbon footprint of ship operations.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the most cost-effective way of transporting natural gas over very long distances. It has been produced and transported internationally in bulk for 50 years. The gas-as-fuel industry builds on this expertise – but the bulk trade and the gas-as-fuel business differ in significant ways.
Alternative fuels
A variety of alternative fuels are under consideration, with hydrogen seen by many as the fuel of the future in the long term. Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity, which can then be used to drive ship propulsion systems. A move towards electric propulsion using traditional engines as power generators is already under way.
Methanol is gaining some popularity as an alternative fuel. It is widely available as it is a petrochemical feedstock. It is also used in a limited way as an engine fuel (“wood alcohol”). A few ferries are trialling methanol on the Scandinavian/Baltic trades. However, it is highly toxic, is miscible with water, and has a low energy content per unit volume (energy density), so extra space is needed for fuel tanks. Methanol is only seen as interesting for bunker fuel
if it is available at very low cost.
Liquid ethane carriers are also going to use ethane as fuel, just as some bulk LNG carriers use natural gas. Compressed natural gas has been used for many years as a road transportation fuel and more recently for ships. A CNG-fuelled ferry is operating in Brazil. The problem with CNG, and to a lesser extent LNG, is its energy density.
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