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Baleària moves its LNG strategy forward with ferry retrofit

Thu 28 Feb 2019 by Rebecca Moore

Baleària moves its LNG strategy forward with ferry retrofit
A key milestone in the project was lifting the 200-tonne LNG tank to place in the vessel – the heaviest lift the shipyard has ever done

Baleària’s LNG dual-fuel retrofit on ferry Nápoles successfully overcame challenges, such as fitting the gas tank  

Spanish operator Baleària has successfully completed the retrofit of a ropax ferry to dual-fuel LNG – the first of five vessels to undergo the procedure.

Baleària announced in August 2018 it would invest €60M (US$69M) to re-engine five of its current ferries to LNG fuelling in the next two years. Baleària has adopted a strategic commitment to LNG as its marine fuel, which is already specified for two newbuildings. MAN PrimeServ is converting the engines to LNG dual fuel.

20% is being funded by European Union Connecting Europe Facility after the project was classified as 'excellent'.

Gibdock shipyard won the contract for the first ferry, Nápoles. Work started in November last year and finished in February. After the LNG retrofit, the ship stayed at Gibdock to undergo normal drydock maintenance.

This is the first time the Gibraltar shipyard has carried out an LNG conversion. The yard has worked on LNG and LPG carriers before, but never an LNG-fuelled vessel.

Gibdock chief executive Richard Beards told PST “It is nice to be involved in the early stages of what we see as pioneering ship repair work.”

The three main parts of the retrofit for the shipyard consisted of positioning the tank, steel work and installing electrical and control gear.

Key milestone

The tank to store LNG – which has a capacity of 440 m3 – was provided by Wärtsilä and will allow the ship to have a range of 1,200 miles. The gas pipes were supplied by Cryospain, while the engineering project was carried out by Cotenaval.

Mr Beards said a “key milestone” in the project was lifting the 200-tonne LNG tank to place in the vessel – the heaviest lift the shipyard has ever done. The heaviest tank it had previously lifted is 102 tonnes. The shipyard brought in a Crawler crane to carry out the lift.

Mr Beards commented “That was an exciting day, and it went very smoothly and successfully. It was a tight fit – but it was intended to be a tight fit and went well. We were fortunate that the wind was not strong, and the weather was favourable that day.”

The tank was placed four decks down in the stern of the vessel. Mr Beards said that accesses were cut so the tank could be lowered down, and the area the tank sits on needed to be reinforced. The tank was retrofitted in the car lanes of the ferry – a few parking spaces were removed to make room for the tank.

MAN PrimeServ, the after-sales division of MAN Energy Solutions, won the contract to convert the ferry to dual-fuel operation. Nápoles was powered by two MAN 9L48/60A main engines, which were converted to 9L51/60DF units that will enable running on LNG.

PrimeServ Four-Stroke, MAN Energy Solutions head of upgrades and retrofits Dr Thomas Spindler said “We showed – with the conversion of Wessels Reederei’s Wes Amelie container ship – that operational MAN engines can successfully be converted to LNG operation with a tremendous effect on exhaust emissions and the environment. We are very happy that Baleària has seen fit to bring these benefits to a new segment and application and look forward to the conversion procedure.”

Baleària director general of operations Ettore Morace stated that the company’s commitment to the environment “is a strategic line for the company based on the use of liquefied natural gas and other clean energies as well as fleet eco-efficiency”. He also specified that LNG helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) by 30% and nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 85% in addition to eliminating sulphur and particle emissions.

Sicilia is set to be converted from October to December 2019. Sicilia operates on the Barcelona–Ibiza route, while Nápoles serves the Algeciras–Tanger Med route.

Gibdock will retrofit Sicilia as well. Mr Beards said “We definitely learned lessons and will make the second retrofit even more efficient.”

Asked why he believed the shipyard scooped the contract, Mr Beards said “We have a long-term relationship with Baleària and we have delivered a quality product in a safe manner. Our on-time reputation is good and we are competitive on money and time.”

He added that Gibdock has worked with all the stakeholders before.

“It’s an LNG product geared towards the environment and we take that seriously – it is a good fit with us.”

Mr Beards said “We are hoping to win more projects like this – we think this is the beginning and we want to become the go-to company for LNG retrofit business. We have done scrubbers in the past, so to offer scrubbers and LNG retrofits to clients is a strong place for us to be.”

Baleària said that running these five vessels on LNG is expected to reduce more than 45,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, 4,400 tonnes of NOx and eliminate sulphur and particulate emissions completely.

Nápoles is expected to reduce its CO2 emissions by 9,113.45 tonnes and NOx emissions by 871.37 tonnes a year, and fully eliminate all sulphur and particle emissions. The annual carbon dioxide reduction will equal the emissions of 6,000 passenger cars, Baleària claimed.

In addition to the gas retrofit of these five ferries, the company is also studying two other LNG projects and is building two smart ships at the Visentini shipyard in Italy, the first of which will be operational next February.

Baleària president Adolfo Utor said LNG is the fossil fuel “most respectful of the environment” and pointed out that “in three years the company plans to have nine ships sailing with this energy”.

Baleària has been working on LNG-related projects since 2012. In addition to being a founding member of the Spanish Association of Natural Gas for Mobility, created in 2013, it has strategic agreements with Naturgy, with whom it has an exclusive LNG subminister contract for 10 years, and Rolls-Royce and Wärtsilä to construct engines. In addition, in 2017 it launched the first LNG energy generator on a passenger ship (Abel Matutes) and since 2015 has been running an LNG training plan for its crew and ship inspectors.

Richard Beards (Gibdock)

Richard Beards has worked at Gibdock since 2010; he was commercial director before being promoted to managing director in 2012. Previously he was at Cammell Laird shipyard since 1998, where his roles spanned financial director and commercial director. He gained a degree at Surrey University in the UK in electrical and electronics engineering.

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