LNG pilot project successfully completed – valuable experience for follow-up projects
The world’s first conversion of a container ship to operation with liquid natural gas (LNG) has paved the way for further environmental protection projects of this kind. This is the conclusion of all participants involved in the conversion of the “WES AMELIE” at German Dry Docks (GDD) in Bremerhaven. Following the successful completion of the federally funded pilot project, the Federal Ministry of Economy has allocated 30 million euros in funding for further LNG projects. The use of “liquefied natural gas” can reduce pollutant emissions from ship propulsion by up to 90 percent.
Because of the low emissions, LNG is considered one of the marine fuels of the future. The corresponding gas or dual-fuel engines have already been installed in new ships several times. The conversion of a cargo ship already in service is, however, breaking new technological ground. “We have shown with our project that the conversion is feasible,” Christian Hoepfner (authorized representative of the Wessels shipping company) and Thorsten Pohle (GDD project manager) are pleased to say.
Space-saving integration of components
The challenge for such projects lies in the integration of the components required for gas operation into the existing vessel. “A newbuilding can, to a certain extent, be planned around the gas system,” explains Pohle, “but there is only very little room available in the case of ships already built like the WES AMELIE.” The project participants installed the 500,000 liter pressure tank and the gas control system in the foreship. From there, the fuel is passed through a stainless steel line to the engine in the stern.
While many specifics of the gas drive can be taken into account in the draft for LNG newbuildings, the retrofitting requires sophisticated detail solutions. The low LNG temperature of -162 ° C, for example, places special demands on the installation of the tank and the pipes, their insulation and even the quality of the welds and the material used: “Steel becomes brittle at such temperatures, so the cold must not be transferred to the adjacent structures of the ship,” explains Pohle. Another complex task was to integrate the complicated and complex control electronics for the gas operation into the existing on-board systems.
Tight schedule in a tight space
Just as great as the technical challenge, was the necessary logistical performance. “For a project like this, many process participants have to work together on a tight schedule and in a limited space,” explains Rainer Runde (technical project manager of Wessels Rederei): “Here, too, the project provided us with valuable experience that will significantly facilitate future conversions.” With this goal, the Federal Government had funded the conversion as a pilot project. The WES AMELIE, commissioned in 2012, is part of a series of 16 identical container ships. “But our experiences also benefit the conversion of other ships”, emphasizes Runde.
Important contribution to climate-neutral shipping
For the engine manufacturer MAN, the lessons learned from the WES AMELIE pilot project therefore have a directional character. “By giving our customers the technology to retrofit their fleet, we are pushing the maritime energy revolution forward,” says Dr. Uwe Lauber, CEO of MAN Diesel & Turbo. In order for global shipping to be operated in a climate-friendly manner by 2050, “”we have to take action today,” emphasizes Lauber.
For the conversion of the main engine of the WES AMELIE of the type MAN 8L48 / 60B, the Augsburg propulsion specialists drew from their many years of experience with gas engines. The success is clearly evident: the conversion to a four-stroke dual fuel engine of the type MAN 51 / 60DF reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90 percent and CO2 emissions by up to 20 percent. In addition, virtually no sulfur and fine dust emissions are generated. Without further measures for emission control, the WES AMELIE now meets the stringent Tier II and Tier III requirements of the international maritime organization IMO.
Funding programme extended after pilot project
After the good experiences with the conversion of the WES AMELIE, the Federal Ministry of Economy plans to provide targeted support for such projects in the future. The federal government will cover up to 60 percent of the necessary investment costs for the environmentally friendly equipment of an existing ship. The newly announced funding programme will initially run until 2020.
Furthermore, the Ministry announced that it would support the establishment of an infrastructure for the supply of ships with LNG. As yet, there is still no “ship filling station” for gas supply in Germany. “With our pilot project we have created precedents regarding the demand for LNG as a maritime fuel. Now the expansion of the LNG infrastructure has to follow suit, especially in the light of further planned conversions, “Höpfner concludes.