‘A thousand firsts’ and a constantly growing list of players underscores the rapid development of LNG as a fuel – especially along the East Coast of the United States.
Click on the headlines for the phrase “LNG Bunkering” and you immediately learn that it is an industry of a thousand firsts and a constantly growing list of players.
“Russia's Novatek ships first LNG cargo to China via Arctic; Yamal LNG ships first LNG cargo to Spain; Qatar ships first LNG to Japan, signs accord; Japan orders its first LNG bunker vessel; Damen to Construct Baltic Sea's First LNG Ship-to-Ship Bunkering; UPDATE 1-Japan's Inpex expects to ship first LNG cargo from Ichthys; Eesti Gaas places order for the first LNG bunker vessel for North-East; and Germany: world's first LNG liner named.” These are but a few of the LNG accomplishments headlined online in the first ten months of 2018.
And, then, there is Florida, more precisely the Ports of Jacksonville and Port Canaveral where LNG Bunkering history and the very hard work to make it happen began almost seven years ago at the hands of America’s two largest Jones Act ocean cargo carriers and the worlds largest cruise line. At Jaxport, today three LNG powered cargo ships, the first two at Tote Maritime Puerto Rico and the third at Crowley Maritime, already sail regular voyages to Puerto Rico supported by the elaborate infrastructure of LNG bunkering accomplished by both barge and shore-based methods.
Largest LNG Cruise Liner
Port Canaveral has spent the time preparing for the largest LNG powered cruise ship in the world to homeport at a newly constructed terminal. The ship from Carnival Cruise Line, named Mardi Gras after the first Carnival cruise liner, is due in 2020. Carnival plans to bunker the ship by barge, which will fill up at a terminal in Georgia. The ship will have a capacity of 5,286 passengers, based on double-occupancy of its cabins, and a maximum capacity of 6,500. It is likely to have an onboard crew of about 2,000.
Carnival will not be the only LNG user, according to Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray who expects Disney Cruise Line to base two or three of its new LNG-powered ships at Port Canaveral after they come into service in 2021, 2022 and 2023. By that time, the barge may be inadequate and a more permanent LNG storage operation could be developed, although there are no plans underway for that process.
What Tote and then Crowley have accomplished at Jaxport and what Canaveral is working through is the highly regulated industry of harvesting natural gas and then holding it in cryogenic vats that chill it to at least 160 degrees below zero. The liquid product is then moved under pressure from the plant to a truck or barge and then to the receiving ship where it becomes fuel.
Liquefied natural gas or LNG is a natural gas, primarily methane (CH4) that has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport. When natural gas is cooled to below its liquefaction point of minus 163 degrees Celsius at atmospheric pressure, it forms a liquid with a specific gravity in the 0.45 range. When liquefied there is also a 600:1 reduction in volume. Because of that shrinkage, and because of the vast amount of natural gas revealed each year via fracking, LNG is worth the selling. It can be transported in huge volumes on LNG tankers to terminals around the world. It can also power huge ships that need to reduce pollution. And LNG as fuel dramatically reduces pollution.
The International Maritime Organization set a clock on the amount of sulphur dioxide that is eliminated from ships exhausts when fuel is burned. Most ships are expected to utilize new blends that are produced to meet the 0.50% limit on sulfur dioxide in fuel oil. Currently, the maximum sulfur limit in fuel oil is 3.50% globally (and 0.10 % in the four Emission Control Areas (ECAs): the Baltic Sea area; the North Sea area; the North American area (covering designated coastal areas off the United States and Canada); and the United States Caribbean Sea area (around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands)).
By January of 2020 all ocean-going vessels must achieve an exhaust that contains 0.50% sulfur dioxide. In October 2018, the IMO also ordered a ban on the carriage of high sulphur fuel by vessels unless they are fitted with a scrubber. This order takes effect two months after the January 1, 2020 edict for the 0.5% sulphur cap comes into force.
There are several ways to achieve that goal; some are as simple as dramatically slowing vessels down to reduce all exhaust gasses. Other ways extend to the complicated and costly process of attaching an aftermarket scrubber to the existing exhaust system of a ship that continues to burn high sulfur fuel. With the most common scrubbers, open and closed loop wet scrubbers, the exhaust is blended with alkaline water that dissolves the sulfur after passing through a lot of plumbing and sends it into the ocean. Then there is the LNG fuel alternative and all that entails.
TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico
The US Jones Act carrier TOTE Maritime, through its subsidiary TOTE Shipholdings, placed an order for two LNG-powered container ships in 2012, long before the IMO’s rules were completed. The new Marlin class vessels are the first ships of their kind. They had a combined cost of US$324 million. They were ordered from the USA’s General Dynamics NASSCO and included an option for an additional three vessels.
General Dynamics NASSCO commenced construction of the first Marlin-class vessel with a steel-cutting ceremony in February 2014, which took place at NASSCO’s shipyard in San Diego. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) sanctioned a $324.6 million loan guarantee to TOTE and its parent company, Saltchuk Resources, for the construction of the two Marlin Class vessels in September 2014.
The first vessel, Isla Bella, was launched in April 2015. The second vessel, Perla del Caribe, was christened and launched in August 2015. The first vessel entered into service in October 2015 while its sister vessel was delivered in January 2016. Both sail from Jaxport’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.
In January 2015, WesPac Midstream and the AGL Resources’ wholly owned subsidiary, Pivotal LNG, signed a long-term agreement with TOTE to provide LNG for its container ships.
WesPac Midstream and Pivotal acquired land to build a new natural gas liquefaction bunker facility at Dames Point with capacity to produce in excess of 120,000 gallons of LNG per day in mid-2016 to meet the LNG fuel requirements of the South-Eastern United States and the TOTE fleet. This LNG is distributed to TOTE ships by North America’s first LNG bunker barge, Clean Jacksonville.
Meet the TOTE Marlin class
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co (DSME) subsidiary Daewoo Ship Engineering Co (DSEC), based in Busan, South Korea, designed the Marlin class vessels. For its commercial vessels, NASSCO cooperates with DSME, which enables the American shipbuilder to have access to DSME’s substantial ship designing skill as well as sharing its shipbuilding technology.
Isla Bella’s overall design and that of the subsequent sister ship, Perla del Caribe were based on a proven DSME container ship design that features a double hull. Both have an overall length of 764.4 feet) and a beam of 105.6 feet, which equates to 13 rows of containers, and a draft of 34.4 feet). Their capacity of 3,100 TEUs makes Isla Bella and Perla del Caribe the largest container ships currently deployed on the intra-America container trades.
According to the company, main propulsion is provided by a single MAN B&W 8L70MEC8.2- GI (ME-GI) unit, which is the world’s first gas-injected, dual-fuel, low speed diesel engine that can run on both gas and standard bunker fuel oil. It is said to be a significant advance in propulsion technology. It provides a total of 25,191kW at 104 rpm, giving Isla Bella and Perla del Caribe a maximum service speed of 22 knots. The engines were built under license from MAN Diesel & Turbo by Doosan Engine of South Korea, which successfully won the order in 2013.
TOTE says the lynchpin for the new design to pass all its tests was the ME-GI Fuel Gas Supply System (FGSS), which has 300 bar of operating pressure. Doosan tested this at its Changwon plant and after two months of extensive tests the new gas system passed all of the substantial regulations and restrictions set down by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG).
On June 3, 2014 the engine successfully completed its first official test run. The main engine is aspirated by two MAN TCA66 turbochargers. The ships Isla Bella and Perla del Caribe primarily operate on LNG. The ME-GI engines selected to propel them are next generation, eco-friendly engines designed to reduce particulate matter (PM) by 99%, sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions by 98%, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 71% and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions by 91% when compared with existing diesel engines. Auxiliary power is provided by three MAN 9L28/32DF auxiliary engines, also manufactured by Doosan Engine, each featuring a single MAN TCR18 turbocharger.
Both of the Tote Marlin class ships feature two stainless steel cryogenic tanks manufactured by Cryo of Sweden and weighing 380 tons each. The tanks each have a capacity of 900m3 and are located aft of the accommodation. They provide a total capacity of around 465,000 gallons. DSME’s patented LNG fuel-gas system is used to supply the LNG fuel to the engine.
Entering service in late 2015 and early 2016 respectively, the Isla Bella and Perla del Caribe first used an innovative truck-to-ship bunkering operation. Barge-to-ship LNG bunkering from Clean Jacksonville began in 2018 after elaborate regulatory review and because of the partnership with JAX LNG.
TOTE Maritime worked with a number of partners to develop the state-of-the-art operations that are currently in use at the Port of Jacksonville. In addition to JAX LNG, TOTE has collaborated with the United States Coast Guard, specifically Sector Jacksonville and the Liquefied Gas Carrier National Center of Expertise; Jacksonville Fire Department, Port of Jacksonville, American Bureau of Shipping and numerous vendors and trade associations.
JAX LNG got its Letter of Acceptance from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for the operation of their waterfront LNG facility and the approval to conduct barge-to-ship LNG bunkering operations with TOTE Maritime’s Marlin Class ships and its LNG barge, Clean Jacksonville.
“TOTE Maritime is committed to safety above all else. Thanks to the commitment of our partner, JAX LNG, we have developed strong standards for landside LNG bunkering that will continue to be the hallmark of our barge-to-ship bunkering operations,” noted Peter Keller, who is both chairman of industry coalition SEA\LNG and executive vice president of TOTE.
With the future of LNG firmly established at TOTE, Rear Admiral (USN-Ret.) Phil Greene Jr. announced his retirement from TOTE Services effective January 4, 2019. Under Greene's leadership, TOTE Services emerged as a leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) maritime technology and expanded its portfolio of government and commercial vessels currently being managed by the company, which now includes 28 vessels.
Crowley enters with its Commitment Class
The first vessel of Crowley Maritime Corporation’s Commitment (C) Class LNG-Powered ConRo Ships was commissioned in March 2017. Crowley signed a contract with VT System’s subsidiary, VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Miss for two vessels of the new Commitment (C) Class in November 2013. The total value of the contract is estimated to be $350 million.
Crowley says the Commitment-class vessels; named El Coquí and Taíno are equipped with a single low-speed, dual-fueled MAN Turbo & Diesel ME-GI Main Engines. Like the Tote Marlin engines, the Crowley engines are capable of operating interchangeably on LNG or marine diesel fuel.
Wartsila Ship Design engineered the ships in conjunction with Crowley subsidiary Jensen Maritime, a leading Seattle-based naval architecture and marine engineering firm. The new double-hulled ConRo ships have been designed to maximize the carriage of 102-inch-wide containers, which offer the most cubic cargo capacity in the trade. The ships are 219.5 meters long, 32.3 meters wide (beam), have a deep draft of 10 meters, and an approximate deadweight capacity of 26,500 metric tons.
Crowley says cargo capacity is approximately 2,400 TEUs (20-foot-equivalent-units), with additional space for nearly 400 vehicles. A wide range of container sizes and types will be accommodated, including 53-foot by 102-inch-wide, high-capacity containers, up to 300 refrigerated containers, and a mix of about 400 cars and larger vehicles in the enclosed, ventilated and weather-tight Ro/Ro decks. This type of shipboard garage is offered exclusively by Crowley in the trade and caters to the North American intermodal so-called “53 foot” container model.
The Commitment Class, Jones Act ships replace Crowley’s fleet of towed triple-deck barges, which had been operational since the early 1970s.
“This delivery represents another milestone in our unwavering commitment to Puerto Rico and the Jones Act,” said Tom Crowley, chairman and CEO. “We have dedicated significant time, effort and more than $550 million, which includes these new ships, to transform our Puerto Rico shipping and logistics services to world-class standards. We thank the men and women at Crowley, VT Halter Marine and other partners, who have dedicated themselves to bringing this magnificent new ship to life.”
The Title XI applications released by the US Maritime Administration shows that on May 30, 2014, Crowley filed an application for Title XI loan guarantee support for a requested loan amount of US$362.7 million over 25 years on an actual cost of US$414.6 million.
Crowley has contracted with Eagle LNG Partners to bunker the ships from a shore-side fuel depot at JAXPORT’s Talleyrand terminal which is separate and distinct from the planned JAX LNG terminal at Jaxport’s Dames Point terminal. And in November of this year, Eagle LNG Partners received notice from the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that it had granted the company their draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). The draft EIS puts Eagle LNG on a clear path to a Final Investment Decision (FID) on the Jacksonville Export Project, And that continues Eagle LNG's success in using small-scale LNG trains to supply bunkering to the marine industry and small scale LNG cargoes to markets in the Caribbean.
Eagle LNG operates a liquefaction plant in West Jacksonville able to produce 200,000 gallons a day and a holding facility at Talleyrand Marine Terminal. The plant and storage facility serves Crowley Maritime. Eagle is also building an LNG production and storage facility near the Blount Island Terminal.
"Our customers, and potential clients, join us in being encouraged that FERC has released the DEIS ahead of schedule. It moves us considerably closer to meeting our goal of expanding clean burning, domestic, and affordable LNG supply for marine bunkering and for small-scale LNG projects in the Caribbean. Once completed, the Jacksonville Export Facility will be the lowest cost source of small-scale LNG available for our marine bunkering and power generation clients," said Sean Lalani, President of Eagle LNG Partners.
Canaveral’s Prospective LNG Fleet
Shell Global announced in September 2016, it had signed a supply agreement with Carnival to supply LNG to fuel two of the world’s largest passenger cruise ships, the first of which will be home ported at Port Canaveral. Later as many as four LNG powered cruise ships, including three new LNG Disney ships will be berthed at Port Canaveral.
Carnival Group, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines have placed orders for LNG fueled ships. Disney has ordered three and Carnival Group has seven LNG-powered vessels on order. Royal Caribbean Cruises placed orders for two LNG and fuel cell powered vessels to be built on a prototype platform. On June 5, 2017, MSC Cruises announced its order of four 200,000-ton LNG-fueled cruise ships. The cruise ship orders are expected to be delivered between 2020 and 2026 and will certainly bring the Port of Miami and Port Everglades into the LNG realm.
Responding to regulatory pressures and readily available cheap LNG supplies, industry built the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the next wave of technology on the water. That wave isn’t coming, however; it’s already here.
This article first appeared in the NOVEMBER/DECEMBER edition of Maritime Logistics Professional magazine.