No Turning Back
A multidisciplinary Rolls-Royce man is helping LNG’s rise on the water and ashore. For LNG, the future is now.
At the heart of Europe’s growing marine supply chain for liquefied natural gas is a man with a degree in anthropology but steeped in engineering and business. Oscar Kallerdahl is Rolls-Royce Marine’s vice-president of LNG systems, and he’s the company’s production, purchasing, engineering and finance lead for getting gas engines aboard vessels.
Kallerdahl has 10 years of experience overseeing LNG propulsion projects in Norway and four in Korea. When we speak, he’s savoring a contract to put Rolls-Royce gas engines aboard the Ro-Pax vessels of brand-new Norwegian coastal-steamer line, Havila Kystruten.
As we gear up to discuss the readiness of LNG marine refueling infrastructure for the widespread use of LNG-fueled engines, Kallerdahl’s mixed arts-science background seizes our interest. But, he’s quick to point out that even as he studied anthropology, “I always knew I would be a mechanical engineer.” We put it aside and stick to facts that might help ship owners, vessel operators, energy-company charterers and even maritime municipalities weighing the March 2020 IMO sulphur ban or regional air quality rules against a perpetual need to save money.
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Rolls-Royce offers three gas-fueled Bergen engines to shipowners, national grids and anyone needing “lean-burning” power. Yet, some potential RR clients we’ve covered over the years are only just learning to study their operations for ways to save cash while being emissions-compliant.
Kallerdahl admits he sometimes finds himself teaching. There are things about LNG engines that few know. “It gets lost in the discussions, but you talk to a crew that has operated an LNG vessel and they never want to go back to a diesel because in the engine room of one of our pure-gas engines there is no oil mist. There’s no spill. No nothing. It’s completely clean. Shipowners have said they’ve reduced costs just by reducing cleaning in the engine room. (Crew) don’t need the strong chemicals anymore. Their working environment improves a lot. Crews tell us they don’t want to go back.”
Bunkering LNG and operating vessels running on LNG require a different skill set. The precautions are different. Kallerdahl says crews need to “pay more attention, be more precise.” Rolls-Royce offers LNG courses for mariners using their systems: “The crews on a conventional vessel today can easily be trained, but they definitely need to be trained. They have to understand (LNG) as a liquid and as a gas.” That training covers LNG hardware, engines, process plant, alarms and controls, much of it done on SIM courses in Norway that are needed before a mariner can set out on an LNG vessel. “Mariners get all the support they need in their first year, but after that, their shoulders relax a bit, and they’re pretty much operating it themselves without any problems. The experience is key.”
\When it comes to noise, smallish 200 to 300 kilowatt diesel engines are understood to make more engine noise than two Rolls-Royce P6 LNG engines of 1,500 kw or 1,700 kw, their gas gensets included.
So, from 2021, the four Havila-designed coastal Ro-Paxes can run quietly between central and Arctic Norway on two LNG fuel tanks feeding a process system, four Bergen engines driving Azipull and Permanent Magnet motors and PM thrusters. The low-noise tunnel thrusters allow for a slimmer hull, so less resistance and better fuel numbers. Each vessel will have two variable-speed engines churning nine in-line cylinders and two engines of six cylinders. Despite all the combustion, running Bergen gas engines is said to curbs “total” greenhouse gas emissions by about 20 percent. On the Havila vessels, the fuel-system designs let the owners’ vessel bunker-up both left and right tanks from one side of the ship. A redundancy option supplies front and aft machine rooms from either tank.
While the Bergen gas engines are already aboard passenger, cargo, offshore vessels and tugs, vessels, Kallerdahl says the Ro-Pax segment appears ready to really run with LNG savings.
While Rolls-Royce offers a barge design to fuel berthing vessels, LNG bunkering on the Norwegian coast seems largely the realm of Shell-owned Gasnor. The company accounts for at least part of the infrastructure of that’ll be needed by new LNG vessels, distributing via tanker truck and specialist vessels from bunkering stations near large-scale gas and oil production plant.
“That (LNG bunker-supply) hurdle was passed a long time ago in Norway,” Kallerdahl says, adding that “It’s now only a design or technical issue. It’s no longer an argument to say that we don’t know if LNG will be available.” Indeed, LNG as a fuel is no longer limited to Norway or Northern Europe.
The frontier is moving along, and it is, says Kallerdahl, no problem getting hold of LNG in Norway. The Baltic, too, “is very close.” LNG use, he says, is gaining traction across the whole southern Baltic Sea coastline; across the ports of Northern Germany and west to The Netherlands and Belgium. Ports are either already offering LNG “or in the process of securing suppliers or the logistics for it.”
“I think that through all of Northern Europe that it’s fairly straightforward to run a vessel on LNG these days. When it comes to the Mediterranean, I think it’s less (straightforward), but we have examples of LNG vessels that have been bunkering in Italy and Spain,” he says, adding that several vessels built in Turkey and given Rolls-Royce equipment also had access to LNG.
“I have always argued that LNG availability is not the biggest issue. It might be the rules and regulations connected to the bunkering procedure. When we built tug boats in Turkey that came out in 2013, I could order the trucks and have LNG quayside in three or four days. Actually, the approval before the bunkering was the difficult part. So, I think the discussion about infrastructure has been skewed in the sense that you can actually bunker from a truck quite easily, and that’s how we started in Norway, and I think that’s actually a way to springboard the whole thing.”
Asia, too, is building LNG vessels. The flurry of new-builds hasn’t been as “frenzied” as in Norway, but the continent has added the weight of their shipyards to a count of active LNG-powered vessels DNV GL has at 247, including duel-fuel, with over 110 likely on the way.
Rolls-Royce, alone, has just hit 1,000 marine and non-marine gas-engine references. Its 100th LNG marine engine will be aboard a vessel by the first-half of 2019. Kallerdahl calls the growth something of a boom.
A notable reference to the growth was the pioneering 2015 voyage of the Nor Lines “short-sea” vessel, Kvitbjorn, a 5,000 DWT cargo vessel that traded in its main diesel engine for an LNG engine to make an ocean crossing. “The ones on gas can run for something like 4,000 nautical miles,” or from Australia to China on one fuel-up, “depending on the tank size and fuel used.”
Critics of gas say it’s still a fossil fuel. They point to methane emissions or the need to secure hydrocarbon fuel sources (which seem to be growing every day; see Arctic gas).
While compliance with Tier III and sulphur-cap emissions rules is still foremost on shipowner minds, Kallerdahl says that a fleet put on LNG, apart from curbing harmful emissions, allows for the use of bio-waste gas sourced from the sludge of industries like aquaculture or agriculture. The LNG equipment onboard allows for the switch to biogas “without switching parts.”
“It doesn’t matter for the engines how these molecules are produced. If over time we can replace fossil fuel with biogas, that’ll be great. It’ll make the whole CO2 calculation completely different for the vessel,” he says, adding that not all countries have LNG. Attracting ship owners from countries without LNG could lead to the major usage breakthrough that has eluded gas-bunker proponents.
Knowing when that breakthrough will come, “That’s the million-dollar question,” says Kallerdahl. He’s heard the talk about “this big gold rush” and “when it will come”. He suggests the “cut-over period” from 2020 will help drive usage.
But, the Ro-Pax and Kvitbjorn breakthroughs are real. “Anything to do with shortsea shipping,” he says, might spur the next LNG fuel-usage boom.
It may require the industry’s newest decision makers to show the new tech to an industry often called conservative.
“So far, the industry has seen a lot of companies that want to be at the forefront of trying new technologies, while others don’t want to be the first to go because it seems to them a bit risky. When there is a certain critical mass of companies and competitors going into (LNG), then it’ll pull through,” Kallerdahl says. Once the industry learns to handle LNG — and they look at fuel prices and supply forecasts — then, he says, LNG as a marine fuel ought to really take off.
“Once (shipyards) acquire the particular knowledge of LNG, then they should be able to move into it,” he says. It might be his anthropology training, but he’s also observed smaller LNG players “moving in and out of” LNG process and support systems from land-based LNG. Shipowners, Kallerdahl asserts, face a competitive future of purpose-built vessels optimized for operations: “They need to do their homework”; study their fuel use and then plan their LNG bunkering.
But some have already done their homework and, he confides, there’s “a steady stream of requests for retrofits.” Some inquire about fitting LNG tanks on-deck to avoid moving kit.
“I think if you’re a ship owner now, you need to move and be aware that the whole market is moving. To sit back and wait is not an option. Harbors are focused on creating bunkering facilities, so I wouldn’t worry about going into LNG.”