LNG drives are showing a growing interest in alternative drive concepts
Smoky chimneys are a thing of the past. The trend to LNG propulsion and other alternative concepts shows the environmental awareness of the shipping industry.
Dual-fuel engines and pure gas drives make an important contribution to “clean” shipping. “They generally cause significantly lower emissions than conventional engines that burn marine diesel or heavy fuel oil,” says Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Freerk Meyer, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Dean of Studies of the Department of Maritime Studies at the Hochschule Emden-Leer. The use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel is becoming increasingly important in the shipping industry. With the WES AMELIE project, the German Dry Docks Group has just proven that even ships already in operation can be successfully converted to LNG.
“LNG has a great future”
Both in newbuilding and in the moving fleet, LNG attracts growing interest of ship owners – and political support. After the WES AMELIE had been changed to dual fuel operation as the world’s first container ship, the federal government announced a support program for the conversion of other cargo ships. For the shipbuilding expert, however, this is only the beginning of a fundamental development: “LNG will undoubtedly have a very great future. But there will be a whole range of other systems or alternative fuels.”
In comparison, for example, to the transport of goods and passengers by land and to worldwide air traffic, seagoing ships contribute relatively little to environmental pollution and climate change. However, more and more ship owners are aware of their responsibilities. In addition, the focus of many environmental organizations is on the ships that are considered a symbol of world trade. This is why LNG propulsion systems are an alternative, especially in shipping areas that are dependent on a particularly clean image – it is not for nothing that companies like the cruise line Aida rely on LNG for their newbuildings.
Innovative concepts for the ship of the future
The use of LNG is also considered useful and trailblazing on short and medium distances. The WES Amelie, for example, travels in feeder traffic in the Baltic States and can complete a journey with one tank filling. „However, there is still a need for adequate infrastructure to supply the ships with gas,” says Prof. Meyer. On long-haul routes, for example, between Europe and Asia, the LNG propulsion system reaches its limits, because gas requires significantly more tank volumes on board than diesel or heavy fuel oil. In these and other areas, the shipbuilding expert can also imagine other alternative drive concepts: “Combinations between different drive concepts, electric drives, sail drives – basically nothing can be ruled out.”
LNG as “enabling technology”
In view of the beginning of rethinking in shipping, LNG is increasingly gaining the significance as an “enabling technology”. “We see today that new drive concepts are feasible, which opens the way for further new technologies”, Prof. Meyer is convinced. Against this background, he attaches a very special importance to one gas in particular: “Hydrogen will play a major role as an energy carrier in a few years’ time.”