MITSUI OSK Lines has agreed to jointly study the feasibility of a liquefied natural gas-fuelled capesize bulker with major iron ore producers such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto as the maritime industry moves towards stricter emission controls.
The joint project, which also involves Woodside Energy, DNV GL and Shanghai Merchant Ship Design and Research Institute, is called ‘Green Corridor’ and aims to reduce merchant vessels’ emissions of nitrogen and sulphur and technological and economic feasibility of an LNG-fuelled bulker.
Using LNG is one of the options the industry studies ahead of the upcoming sulphur cap.
By 2020, all ships will have to use fuel oil with a sulphur content of 0.5%, which is down sharply from the current 3.5%.
A limit of 0.1% is already in place in emission control areas around northern Europe, North America and part of the Caribbean. Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Shenzhen have restricted sulphur emissions to 0.5% for vessels at berth.
Options to meet the sulphur cap include retrofitting vessels with scrubbers to lower the sulphur content from the current 3.5% to 0.5% or to get cleaner fuel with 0.5% sulphur direct from refiners.
LNG fuel drawbacks:
Another option is to use LNG but this has been viewed as the hardest one to implement at present, both in terms of technology as well as infrastructure. Current LNG retrofitting for vessels necessitates taking away up to 30% of cargo space, which is not commercially viable.
Additionally, there are currently fewer LNG refuelling ports compared with low-sulphur fuel oil bunkering ports.
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