Owners of tankers and bulk carriers initially showed little enthusiasm for the LNG fuel option. There are only six such vessels in service, comprising a cement carrier, two product tankers and three gas ships that are not LNG carriers.

Interest has picked up in recent years, however. The orderbook for LNG-powered tankers and bulkers has grown to 24 vessels, from 19 a year ago. Shipyards now hold orders for eight product/chemical tankers, one bitumen tanker, 13 gas carriers and two bulk carriers.

Small-scale LNG supplement: tankers and bulkers warm to LNG

TOTE's container ship ISLA BELLA - World's first LNG-powered container ship

Oil, gas and chemical tankers enjoy one key advantage over other ship types when it comes to the LNG fuel option. On tankships LNG bunker tanks can be positioned on deck, ensuring that the underdeck cargo-carrying capacity of the vessel is not compromised in any way.

Although bulk carriers also have cargo-free flush decks, it is difficult to position LNG bunker tanks on deck due to the need for cargo hold access via wide deck openings.

The tanker orderbook features two series of four 15,000 dwt newbuildings – one for Denmark’s Terntank Rederi and the other for Groupe Desgangnés of Canada. All the ships will be product/chemical tankers except for the first Desgangnés vessel, which will carry bitumen.

The Terntank and Desgangnés quartets will be the first LNG-fuelled vessels to be propelled by two-stroke, low-pressure, dual-fuel engines. The Wärtsilä RT-flex50DF engine specified for each ship is compliant with the IMO requirements governing Tier III nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions without the need for exhaust gas cleaning systems.

New leader
The most notable feature of the tanker and bulker orderbook is the rise of gas carriers to the top spot. Eleven of the 13 gas ships are ethane carriers and the 12th is the world’s first compressed natural gas (CNG) carrier. The latter will also be Indonesia’s first dual-fuel ship. All the gas carriers, with the exception of one, are being built in China.

The ethane carriers are being constructed for a new trade – the export of this shale-based liquefied gas from the US to petrochemical plants worldwide for use as feedstock. The LNG-powered ethane carriers ordered to date are in the 30-36,000m3 size range and will be used primarily for transatlantic shipments to chemical complexes in Europe.

US shale has also boosted the country’s natural gas production and is making large quantities of LNG available, to the extent that supplying the ethane carriers with bunker fuel will not be a problem.

Seven of the 11 ethane carriers are to be powered by MAN high-pressure ME-GI dual-fuel engines while the propulsion system for the remaining four ships is still to be chosen.

The two bulk carriers on order are 25,600 dwt, dual-fuel vessels being built for Finland’s ESL Shipping and service in the Baltic Sea commencing delivery in early 2018. The ice-class 1A ships will be the world’s first handysize LNG-fuelled bulk carriers and are being built to Deltamarin’s B.Delta26LNG design.

Source: LNG World Shipping