Naval architecture and marine engineering firm Jensen Maritime has been awarded a contract by LNG America, a Houston-based LNG fuel supply and distribution company, to design liquefied natural gas bunker barges, Jensen parent Crowley Maritime Corp., announced Monday.
No LNG fueling barges are in operation in the United States, and the LNG America order represents some of the first of these vessels to be developed, as ocean carriers and inland waterways barge operators begin to consider LNG as an alternative fuel to heavy, unrefined oils that have become hugely expensive in recent years and produce large amounts of polluted emissions and greenhouse gases.
TOTE Inc.'s Seastar and Totem Ocean Trailer Express subsidiaries, which respectively shuttle cargo between Jacksonville, Fla., and Puerto Rico, and between Tacoma, Wash., and Alaska, are each in the process of adding LNG fuel capability
to two vessels. Crowley Maritime has also ordered two vessels that will be powered by LNG, and other vessel operators are exploring LNG or dual-fuel systems (see "Transitioning from Diesel
," January issue, pp. 12-18).
LNG is the byproduct of cooling natural gas to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit until it becomes a liquid that can be stored and transported at essentially atmospheric pressure. Converting gas to a liquid reduces its volume by about 600 times. Once delivered to its destination, the LNG is warmed back into its original gaseous state so it can be used like existing natural gas supplies.
Crowley said the vessels are expected to be delivered in late 2015 and have an initial planned capacity of up to 3,000 cubic meters of LNG. Once in operation, the barges will serve the dual purpose of moving the gas from LNG America's Louisiana supply source to coastal-based storage and distribution terminals, and directly fueling large ships.
"Through LNG America's LNG bunkering initiative, we plan to serve and facilitate the growing marine demand for LNG," LNG America Chief Executive Officer Keith Meyer said in the Crowley news release. "LNG America sees the demand for marine LNG to be robust, as LNG can be made available to the maritime industry on a reliable, dependable and cost-competitive basis. Our mission is to deliver competitively priced LNG as fuel where needed, when needed and in the quantity needed."
Seattle-based Jensen first produced prototype designs for LNG vessels in 2008. Jensen has developed designs for an LNG tugboat and is working on several other prototype designs of LNG bunker vessels, harbor tugs, articulated tow barges, container ships and tankers, along with inland vessels for a variety of customers in the United States.
LNG America was formed last July to develop LNG distribution infrastructure for the marine, rail, mining and heavy-duty truck markets as U.S. production of LNG rapidly increases. LNG is considerably less expensive than diesel fuel.
LNG America has an agreement in principle with Cheniere Energy to secure LNG from the Sabine Pass LNG facility currently under construction in Cameron Parish, La. LNG America initially plans to distribute LNG at major Gulf Coast ports and expand to other regions as commercial agreements are completed. The company will own or control the logistics infrastructure, including tanker trucks, and storage and loading facilities. It plans to provide both ship-to-ship and shore-to-ship bunkering.