^ Bit Viking: World’s First Vessel to Convert to LNG Fuel (Source: http://www.lngworldnews.com/wartsila-completes-bit-viking-conversion-finland/)
Gas Fuels on IMO’s Radar
Come January 1, 2017, and ships using gases and other low-flashpoint fuels will have to abide by the new IGF code finalized by the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) at its 95th session held at the IMO’s headquarters in London between June 3 and 12, 2015.
Although ships have transported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as cargo for decades, they have only recently started burning LNG as fuel. Global Warming and environmental pollution have increasingly dominated public discourse and catalyzed the tightening of emission norms everywhere.
LNG emits lower sulphur oxides (SOX), carbon dioxide (CO2), and particulate matter than conventional marine fuels. But then, there is always the other, inevitable side. Handled incorrectly, gas and other low-flashpoint fuels create mammoth safety risks.
Challenges in Using LNG as Bunker Fuel & the IGF Code
Comprising 99% methane, LNG is vastly cleaner and safer than most other marine fuels. But its use as bunker fuel presents its own sets of challenges:
- LNG is Inflammable and Burns Back to the Source: this puts the entire LNG tank at risk. The hazard is pronounced when LNG vapors leak in spaces without ventilation. And you can put off methane fires only with chemicals, not with water
- Difficulty in Leakage Detection: as LNG has no natural odor. Plus, it is near-impossible to add odorants for LNG is stored at extremely-low, cryogenic temperatures. LNG forms a visible cloud only after a major leakage
- Pressure Buildup: due to storage at extremely low-temperatures. LNG is usually stored at 1-10bar with temperatures ranging between -1600C and -1200 Despite the best of insulations, heat leaks inside causing pressure to build up unless vapor is vented out
- Weathering: decline of LPG’s methane content due to vaporization of methane in stored LPG
- Change of Material Properties at Ultra Low Temperatures: carbon steel, plastics, and rubber lose ductility at cryogenic temperatures. They can crack on impact making them incompatible for LNG storage
- Suffocation Capacity: of Methane
- Cryogenic Burns to Skin: by LPG at ultra-low temperatures
Precisely to minimize these hazards, the MSC adopted the IGF Code i.e. International Code of Safety for Ships using Gas and other Low-Flashpoint Fuels The MSC also adopted amendments necessary to make the code mandatory for vessels under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Seas (SOLAS).
To be enforced from January 1, 2017, the IGF Code will apply to vessels built after this date or those that convert to gas and other low-flashpoint fuels after this deadline. The code will apply to cargo ships of and above 500 gross tonnage. Ships below this tonnage can voluntarily comply with the code based on relevant national legislation
Employing a goal-based approach, the IGF Code seeks to minimize such hazards by prescribing functional requirements for the design, construction, operation, installation, arrangement, and monitoring of all onboard equipment, machinery, and systems that will use gas and low-flashpoint fuels and will therefore need to adapt.
IMO’s MSC has:
- Amended Part F of SOLAS Chapter II-1
Part F includes Alternative Design & Arrangements. The modifications provide a framework for substitute design and arrangement of electrical installations, machinery, and fuel storage-distribution systems
SOLAS Chapter II-1 deals with Structure, Subdivision and Stability, Machinery, and Electrical Installations
- Added fresh Part G to SOLAS Chapter II-1
Part G includes regulations for ships that will be built after January 1, 2017 and will use these fuels. Adherence with these norms will ensure compliance with the IGF Code as well as relevant amendments to SOLAS Chapter II-2 and Appendix (Certificates)
SOLAS Chapter II-2 addresses the protection, detection, and extinction of onboard fires
- Adopted rectifications to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Code that lay down fresh, minimum standards for training-qualification of officers, masters, ratings, and other personnel manning IGF Code-compliant ships
Why Use LNG?
- is lighter than air and dissipates easily vis-à-vis other fuels that accumulate on the ground and aggravate fire hazard
- does not cause suffocation in open air
- is not explosive and less inflammable than other fuels in open air
And because LNG is stored in and transferred through stronger and more reliable containers and pipes, the said hazards are already reduced to a bare minimum.
LNG is here to stay and the code goes a long way in underscoring this fact as well as in making life easier for designers and builders for LNG-powered ships.