SGMF: The case for gas

SGMF: The case for gas

London: Despite all the hubbub regarding LNG as a fuel for ships, even the keenest proponents of the fuel switch admit take up will be slow. Mark Bell, general manager of the Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel (SGMF), tells Maritime CEO that any transition from traditional bunker fuel to LNG will not happen overnight.

Current projections, he says, are anything between 250 and 2,500 ships within five to seven years, still less than 5% of the world fleet.

“Competitive advantage often sits with the first movers, however, so you may see that trend accelerate in this period,” he adds. “With sulphur restrictions now really taking hold through ECA compliance we believe that the dash for gas just may be about to accelerate further.”

On constraints facing the switch, first up for Bell is supply, although there are a number of ports around the world leading the way, with Bell highlighting Antwerp, Rotterdam and Singapore as leaders in the field.

Europe has a head start in that it received funding and subsidies for many projects.  In North America, it’s the price and developing availability that is “irresistible” to maritime, according to Bell. In Asia, especially Southeast Asia, it is perhaps the natural geography and the bunkering prominence of places such as Singapore that may see it become a major player very quickly, Bell reckons.

The next hurdle is cost for the owner. “Generally it is not a viable option to convert an existing asset but for a newbuilding it certainly is more and more viable with many projects now on the table or in production,” Bell says.

“Converting your fleet to using LNG fuel is not a cheap option and an intermediate solution to meet ECA requirements is to use scrubber technology, itself not cheap by any means,” the gas proponent admits. Inevitably, many companies are waiting for the industry to develop and to acknowledge the use of LNG before they can begin to get involved.

Looking forward Bell point s out there are other fuels on the horizon to consider such as methanol and ethanol as examples.  [16/09/14]

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