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LNG World Shipping

Conversions dominate LNG strategy

Mon 29 Jan 2018

Conversions dominate LNG strategy
The Wes Amelie was the world’s first container ship retrofitted with an LNG engine

A huge area of focus for MAN Diesel & Turbo is converting existing vessels to run on LNG. In August 2017, this process saw the world’s first container ship retrofitted with an LNG engine being successfully launched when Wes Amelie (owned by Wessels Reederei) underwent an LNG engine conversion at the German Dry Docks in Bremerhaven.

The project involved retrofitting the 1,036 TEU feeder container ship’s MAN 8L48/60B main engine to a multi-fuel, four-stroke MAN 51/60DF unit that enables dual-fuel operation. This was the first such conversion of its type the world has ever seen. 

This move formed one part of MAN’s new ‘maritime energy transition,’ as MAN Diesel & Turbo chief executive Dr Uwe Lauber made clear. “By providing customers with the technology to retrofit their existing fleet, we are driving what we call the maritime energy transition,” he said.

“There are roughly 40,000 cargo vessels in operation worldwide. If we are serious about decarbonisation and want the shipping industry to be climate neutral by 2050, we need to take action today,” Dr Lauber explained. The dual-fuel conversion has enabled Wes Amelie to significantly reduce its SOx emissions by more than 99%, NOx by approximately 90% and CO2 by up to 20%.

This was only one step on this journey, though. In October 2017, MAN pledged a €2M (US$2.3M) discount to convert 10 HFO engines into gas engines.

Speaking at the Ocean 2017 Conference in Malta, MAN chief sales officer Wayne Jones said: “We clearly recognise that our interests are best served by ensuring that the world’s oceans remain in robust, good health. MAN Diesel & Turbo believes that it is time for what we call a ‘maritime energy transition’ to find clean solutions for seaborne trade and transportation.”

In no small part, this effort is intended to help encourage the development of increased LNG bunkering infrastructure worldwide. As Mr Jones put it, “We hope to play our part in moving the world’s fleet toward the clean technology our industry and our oceans deserve.”

This drive toward conversion developed further in November 2017 with the announcement that MAN Diesel & Turbo had signed a letter of intent with Wessels Reederei to supply the materials to convert three 1,000 TEU container vessels to operate using LNG fuel.

The deal follows MAN’s pivotal role in engineering the world’s first conversion of a container ship’s propulsion system from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to LNG with Wessels Reederei’s Wes Amelie.

Speaking to Marine Propulsion, MAN project engineer for upgrades and retrofits Marcel Lodder, who oversaw the Wes Amelie project, explained: “In June we converted the engine, and the ship has been running fine since September on LNG and bunkering in Rotterdam. It’s pointing in the right direction, so we signed a letter of intent for three further vessels.”

MAN intends to supply the material for the conversion kit of the main engines from the current 8L48/60B to 51/60DF, and Mr Lodder believes the final steps to confirm the project will take place early this year.

Wes Amelie has 23 sister vessels that are almost identical, meaning that the conversions should be relatively simple.

Some of the funding for this project is from the German Government, which helped to make it economically feasible. Mr Lodder said this project is also “very likely” to qualify for MAN’s subsidy.

“The subsidy is made for sustainable access into the LNG market. That’s the idea behind it,” said Mr Lodder. “The more ships use LNG as a fuel for propulsion, the more you will see that the logistics for LNG improve.”

In a further development, TOTE Maritime Alaska also contracted MAN PrimeServ (MAN Diesel & Turbo’s after-sales division) to convert North Star and Midnight Sun to dual-fuel operation on LNG. The roro vessels will be retrofitted to MAN 58/64 retrofit units. The contract was signed in April 2017, and announced during the High Horsepower Summit, a conference and expo on the use of natural gas. The contract covers the design, development and testing of a first-of-its-kind dual-fuel kit, which will serve as foundation for the largest LNG conversion in North America.

A key influence in TOTE’s decision to retrofit the vessels to LNG is to significantly reduce the most harmful emissions that result from burning diesel. “TOTE Maritime Alaska is excited to convert its fleet to LNG power, which will result in a significant reduction in air emissions including particulate matter, sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide. This significant investment of time and money is a reflection of our commitment to the environment, our customers and the state of Alaska,” noted TOTE Maritime Alaska president Michael Noone.

MAN PrimeServ Augsburg head of upgrades and retrofits Dr Thomas Spindler explained: “To meet TOTE’s requirements, we have developed a solution based on our well-proven 51/60DF retrofit. Accordingly, the engineering approach to the 58/64 retrofit is very familiar to us, and this project represents a straightforward conversion procedure.”

Dr Spindler added, “The investment will be of huge benefit to the customer on several fronts: not only will the retrofitted engines meet all new emission standards, but the new components they receive during conversion will significantly extend their working life.”


Technology Showcase

MAN used the Marintec exhibition in December 2017 to showcase a number of its most recent technical developments, with pride of place naturally going to models of the company’s new 45/60CR and ME-LGI engines, as well as its innovative HP-SCR emissions reduction technology.

Launched in September 2017, the 45/60CR was described by the company as a ‘gamechanger’ due to its outstanding fuel consumption and resultant reduction in operating expenses and positive environmental impact.

Speaking to Marine Propulsion at the engine’s launch, MAN head of sales for cruise and ferry Sokrates Tolgos said of the new engine: “The 45/60CR offers a unique competitive advantage in that when it comes to specific fuel oil consumption (SFOC), it is without competition. This engine is playing in a new league and – for the time being – it is playing entirely on its own.”

Another key technology in the achievement of this low SFOC was two-stage turbocharging. Alexander Koerber, product manager for the new engine, explained that “two-stage turbocharging draws more energy from the exhaust gas because you’re using the energy twice. Also, two-stage turbochargers can be optimised in terms of adjusting for higher pressure ratios, meaning greater efficiency.”

MAN Diesel & Turbo also used Marintec to bring further attention to its new high-pressure selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system. MAN SCR-HP is available for two-stroke engines of all bore sizes. It reduces, through internal catalytic reaction, NOx exhaust emissions to IMO Tier III limits. With specially developed honeycombs and honeycomb materials, as well as an integrated mixing unit, the overall size of the reactor has been drastically reduced compared with typical market designs and its medium-speed counterpart.

Finally, the MAN B&W ME-LGI dual-fuel engine expands MAN Diesel & Turbo’s dual-fuel portfolio, enabling the use of more sustainable, low-flash-point fuels such as methanol, ethanol, dimethyl-ether (DME) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

With the designation LGI (liquid gas injection), all existing MAN B&W ME/ME-C/ME-B engines are available for operation on low-flash-point liquid (LFL) fuels like methanol, ethanol, LPG and DME. The engines are operated as dual-fuel engines with high-pressure injection. These engines have the same fuel consumption as similar diesel engines, and the same tuning methods can be applied.

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