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ECAs to trigger big LNG switch: Wartsila

Date: 15/12/2010

The number of ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) may increase tenfold within five years, engine maker Wärtsilä predicts. LNG is the future for shipping as widening anti-pollution rules force owners to switch to the cleaner-burning fuel, Jaakko Eskola, the head of ship power at the Finnish company, told the Singapore Business Times. Any large proportional increase in LNG use, however, would come off a low base.  Currently only about 100 merchant vessels are fuelled by LNG. This could climb to between 800 and 1,000 vessels by 2015, Eskola said. From that year, ships plying their trade in the declared emissions control areas (ECAs) in the Baltic, North Sea and along the North American coastlines will not be allowed to burn fuel with any more than 0.1 per cent sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions.

While low-sulphur heavy fuel oil is enough to meet current 1 per cent sulphur limits in the European ECAs, it may not be possible to lower the sulphur level in conventional heavy fuel oil (HFO) to below 0.1 per cent, according to Per Brinchmann, managing director of Wilhelmsen Marine Consultants. Maritime Propulsion magazine reports his warning to ship operators within ECAs: They should be planning now for 2015 because the only realistic options will be to use LNG, switch to marine gas oil (MGO) or employ scrubbing systems to clean the exhaust of HFO.

Some see LNG as the best solution; there are greater supplies of LNG than MGO and it also offers lower CO2 emissions, also set to be regulated in coming years. However, LNG requires up to 40 per cent more storage space and costly and time-consuming conversion to retrofit to existing vessels.

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