In trend: ships powered by LNG

Shipping must become sustainable. Since 2020, a sulphur limit of 0.5 per cent applies to ship fuels. With LNG as the cleanest fossil fuel, this limit can be met. It is therefore not surprising that it is the fastest growing marine fuel segment. However, the use of LNG means that hazardous areas will be present on ships. These must be taken into account with respect to the technical equipment. Ingo Emde, Business Development Manager, explains what this means for you as a shipbuilder.

One aspect of our collaboration is the exciting topic of LNG as a ship fuel. Currently, larger and larger ships are using it. What does that mean for shipbuilders, particularly in terms of technology?

That's true. Many forecasts predict that LNG will play a key role as a shipping fuel in the next 10 to 15 years. In terms of technology, this will mean a few changes for shipbuilders. The use of LNG means that hazardous areas will be present on ships. In the past, this was not the case. Of course, this must be taken into account with respect to the technical equipment. This affects simple elements, such as light fittings, as well as more complex equipment, such as the automation system. Not to mention, the ship needs to be fuelled with LNG. This requires additional systems and the tanks are specially designed.

The fuelling process must also be planned very precisely in terms of time. Currently, large ships, such as container vessels, require huge amounts of fuel and, at the moment, there are not many bunker stations or bunker vessels. Many shipbuilders will also need to consider that the ships may need to be converted to use a different fuel in the future. Ultimately, of course, we hope that larger quantities of climate-neutral fuels will be available in a couple of years – ammonia, for instance. The technology should therefore make conversion possible at a later date. Some system suppliers are also planning to remove and store the carbon after LNG combustion. This could also be an opportunity to reduce CO2 missions. The CO2 s then used to manufacture other products that require CO2. All in all, there is quite a lot to consider from a technical perspective.

Why do you think there is such a shift towards LNG power on ships, not directly to green ammonia or green hydrogen?

I think this is because LNG is made up of purified, clean gas. It enables emissions to immediately be reduced to an absolute minimum. LNG is also available in sufficient quantities. This means that it can be used immediately, even for large ships on international routes. Another reason is that the technical systems for the drive, as well as everything related to the use of LNG, has already been developed and made available. A lot of green energy is required in the form of electricity for green hydrogen or ammonia. Until green energy can be provided in the required quantities, it will not be possible to meet the needs of the shipping industry. This is precisely why many companies are working on implementing conversion in the near future. To do so, the technical systems need to be adapted and altered. A number of pilot projects are already under way. This fills me with optimism when it comes to future conversion.

Which products in our portfolio can be used particularly effectively for LNG drives? How would we differentiate between them?

In this context, I immediately think of our Remote I/O IS1+, our HMIs and our cameras. They are already in use and have proven very popular. The deciding factor for these products is not only approval for hazardous areas, but also specific approval for ships. Another reason why these products are ideal is that they are capable of withstanding extreme ambient conditions. For example, our Shark HMI can be used at temperatures between -40 °C and +65 °C, even though it is equipped with extremely high-performance processors. This is unique within the industry.

It is also important to look at the application in detail. A ship has to cover huge distances, perhaps even across different climate zones. It is extremely difficult to replace spare parts on the ship during the journey. This is why reliability is so important. Our robust product versions offer outstanding reliability. Something that many people may not know, for instance, is that vibrations can occur in and around the machine compartments on ships. Products need to be able to withstand these vibrations; they are tested during the ship approval process to ensure that this is the case. This function must be taken into consideration early on, during the development of the products. Customers understand the value of this feature – it's far more than just the price that counts when they make decisions. In this context, we can speak to users on an even footing because we understand what they need. This expertise is an advantage that our customers greatly appreciate. You could say that we make the difference for our customers.

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