• 2017 October 30

    Revolutionary fleet

    Russia is preparing for a fuel revolution in global shipping. State support measures are under development for promotion of gas-fuelled ships, departmental programme on technical aspects of LNG-powered shipping is under implementation, scientific and designing organizations are involved in the process, the stakeholders told at the Conference “LNG Fleet and LNG Bunkering in Russia” organized by Krylov State Research Center and Media Group PortNews (Moscow, 25 October 2017).

    Stepping on the gas

    Global shipping is on the threshold of yet another fuel revolution. About a century ago the vessels saw a transition from coal to oil products while today’s trend is to step using that fuel in favour of alternative energy, primarily LNG. As compared with the transition to oil products driven by economic and technological reasons, today’s situation with the rejection of oil products in favour of greener fuel is associated with the toughening of international legislation focused on reduction of hazardous emissions from ships. It is especially urgent for emission control areas (ECAs). For Russia, it is the Baltic and North Sea ECAs. However, as the LNG market and infrastructure develops, the number of ships powered by this fuel and the number of bunkering stations increases, this infrastructure can appear in other regions like the Azov-Black Sea Basin and at inland water transport. Vessels of mixed sea/rive shipping will be able to use LNG bunkering stations at seaports for entering ECAs. In the future, LNG bunkering stations can appear at the key hubs of inland water ways used for transit shipping.

    As Victor Olersky, Deputy Minister of Transport – head of Rosmorrechflot, said at the Conference, transition of the shipping industry to liquefied natural gas is an established trend and Russia is not going to sit idle. “We have, apparently, started a long way of transition to LNG”, emphasized the official. 

    As for construction costs, LNG powered ships are more expensive as compared with conventional ships by 10-30% depending on deadweight. It is clear that transition to using LNG by ships will not be active without state support measures. Therefore, ship owners which have taken a decision on transition to gas fuel or are about to take such a decision should get support from the state. One of such support measures, the reduction of port dues for vessels running on gas, is under elaboration at the Ministry of Transport. It is a practice of some ports along the Northern shores of Europe.

    According to Victor Olersky, service ships (tugboats, may be port icebreakers) and ferries  should be considered as pilot projects for transition to LNG.

    As Vitaly Klyuev, Director of the Department of State Policy for Maritime and River Transport of the Russian Ministry of Transport, said when speaking at the Conference via videolink with London (which hosted the meetings of Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Ships), international legislation is steadily toughening environmental requirements in shipping with the idea of zero emissions form ships suggested for achievement by 2050. “The era of gas fuel is coming and we want the Russian Federation with its enormous gas reserves to be able to board the wagon which is about to leave”, said Vitaly Klyuev.

    The Ministry of Industry and Trade is, in its turn, implementing a project “Development of gas-fuelled fleet for navigation in coastal waters and at inland water ways”. The project is a part of the state programme “Development of shipbuilding and equipment for offshore fields in 2013–2030”. Implementation period: November 2017 – December 2025. As Elena Kvasnikova, head of the Division for Strategic Planning and Management at the Ministry’s Department for Shipbuilding Industry  and Marine Equipment,  told at the Conference,  the project includes a number of activities like R&Ds for development of innovative vessels, equipment and technologies, their test operation and providing subsidies for construction of vessels at Russian shipyards. 

    According to the Ministry, successful implementation of the activities will let increase the number of commercial ships running on LNG (including cargo and passenger ships, bunkering vessels, floating bunkering facilities, service and auxiliary vessels) and built in the Russian Federation to 38 units by 2030. The share of domestic components used in those ships will exceed 50%. Besides, the number of retrained and certified specialists able to work with gas fuel will be increased to 800.

    Krylov State Research Center has recently won three tenders for performing R&D works in respect of using gas fuel by ships. 

    Translating the theory into practice

    Sovcomflot is so far the only shipping company in Russia to start using LNG as ship fuel. Apart from the new fleet (a series of Aframax ships running on LNG), the company is training its personnel. As Igor Tonkovidov, Executive Vice-President and Technical Director of Sovcomflot, said at the Conference, by May 2018 the company will prepare 8 professional crews for working at such ships. 

    The panel discussions covered different variants of using environmentally friendly fuel by ships and methods of bunkering. According to Igor Tonkovidov, using of scrubbers will let save investments at the phase of the construction (by 40-50% as compared with construction of LNG-powered ships) but will bring up a challenge of waste management. As for a conventional truck-to-ship bunkering, it is too expensive due to nonproductive vessel idleness. All this leads to the necessity of developing LNG bunkering infrastructure involving dedicated bunkering tankers and on-shore terminals.

    According to the Ministry of Transport, first bunkering terminals in the Russian part of the Baltic Sea (at the ports of Vysotsk and Kaliningrad) will appear in late 2018 – early 2019. In the future, a large scale project known as Baltic LNG will be launched at the port of Ust-Luga.

    The plans on construction of LNG bunkering tankers earlier announced by Gazpromneft Marine Bunker are included into the project of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

    A number of designs of gas-powered ships has been developed by Marine Engineering Bureau. According to Gennady Yegorov, head of MEB, the company has designed a modification of RST27 type ship, a multi-functional MPSV12 type ship, a rail ferry of CNF19М type (planned to be deployed for Ust-Luga – Baltijsk line) etc. One of the key aspects of such designs if the task of ensuring sufficient endurance of ships since LNG tanks occupies much space and LNG cannot be stored for a long period of time.

    It is also necessary to encourage localization of special equipment manufactures in Russia. This sphere is represented by DAMEN with its extensive competence in construction of auxiliary and other vessels, the company has achievements in using alternative types of fuel. As Roman Bogdanov, DAMEN representative in Russia, said at the Conference, liquefied natural gas is not the only fuel which should be considered when designing new vessels. In some cases, it is more reasonable to use compressed gas and hybrid units. DAMEN has performed detailed calculations, groundwork and completed projects for different types of ship fuel and hybrid units.

    Russian Maritime Register of Shipping has also carried out an extensive work in the segment of gas-fueled ships. Georgy Bedrik, Head of RS Business Development Department, said that Russian Maritime Register of Shipping has developed new classification symbols: GFS (Gas Fuelled Ship), LNG bunkering ship, and GRS (Gas Ready Ship) with the corresponding requirements.

    Norms are still gaseous

    LNG infrastructure development will require the development of a regulatory system covering the creation and operation of such facilities. As Aleksandr Krasavin, Head of Glavgosexpertiza’s  Department for industrial/nuclear/radiation/fire safety, said at the Conference,  Russia lacks a comprehensive regulatory framework today.

    “Though there are numerous documents regulating safety in this area, we cannot say that all the issues have been solved.  Design organizations have to develop and approve specifications for each project amid absence or insufficiency of special requirements in this respect”, said the Glavgosexpertiza representative.

    In his opinion, if the number of projects for construction of bunkering terminals and points increases, a regulatory document will be required to set the standards for designing of such facilities because the development and approval of specifications means additional time and costs of design works.

    In particular, it is reasonable to set different requirements on fire separation distance between LNG storage facilities and other facilities depending on LNG storage volume. 

    Yury Glukhovenko, Advisor to the Head of FAU FCC at RF Ministry of Construction, said there are few projects, two or three per year, with the absence of standards solved through specifications.  

    “When the number of facilities under construction is sufficient, the best technical solutions used for specifications will be transferred into the standards”, explained Yury Glukhovenko.

    He emphasized that there is a permanent programme for improvement of construction standards in the framework of which the plans are approved for development of new documents and improvement of the existing ones. “The Ministry of Transport can initiate the development of such standards and this work will be financed and performed by the state”, explained Yury Glukhovenko.

    When speaking about safety of LNG equipment, Anton Lutskevich, leading engineer at Krylov Center’s Civil Ship Systems Integration Division,  who also took part in the Conference, emphasized that LNG spill will not pollute the water area and the gas cloud will not threat with a catastrophe. For example, an exclusion zone for a 250-cbm LNG facility does not exceed 25 m. However, safety parameters should be set forth individually for each facility.

    Generally speaking, Russia is prepared for the new fuel revolution better than it is commonly believed. Although we are in the very beginning of this way, integration and coordination of all stakeholders’ efforts (those of the state, business, design and expert organizations as well as industry-focused media) will let be in time for the train which is about to leave.

    Vitaly Chernov

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