Meeting the rising demand for LNG as fuel

  • Feb 25, 2019
  • LNG World Shipping

The world’s largest LNG bunker supply vessel is now performing ship-to-ship bunkering and transhipment operations, providing fuel the growing number of LNG-fuelled vessels and land-based consumers

“Kairos” is an Ancient Greek word meaning the right, critical or opportune moment. It is only fitting then that the world’s largest LNG bunker vessel should be christened Kairos because it comes at a time when small-scale LNG (ssLNG) infrastructure is much-needed to serve the growing fleet of LNG-fuelled vessels in the Baltic region.

With some 250 in attendance, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Federal Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, served as godmother at a christening ceremony on 8 February for the 7,500 m3 LNG bunker vessel (LNGBV) at the Port of Hamburg in Germany.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Federal Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, served as the godmother at the christening for Kairos (source: Nauticor)

Since its delivery in October of last year, Kairos has been serving the Linde/AGA terminal in Nynäshamn and the Klaipėda LNG-fuelling station in Lithuania. Kairos can perform both ship-to-ship (STS) bunkering and transhipment operations, providing LNG bunkering for ferries, container ships, cruise ships and land-based gas consumers. It is not surprising that the world’s largest bunker vessel would be based in the Baltic, which was one of the first Emissions Control Areas (ECA). Many large roro ferries in the region were early adopters of LNG as a marine fuel. Kairos’ clients will include Gothia Tanker Alliance, the Swedish operator of a fleet of regional North/Baltic Sea chemical/product distribution tankers that run on LNG.

Owned by Babcock Schulte Energy, a 50/50 joint venture of the Babcock International Group and Bernard Schulte Shipmanagement, Kairos is time chartered by Blue LNG, which is 90% owned by Nauticor, with the remainder held by Lithuanian energy infrastructure provider Klaipedos Nafta (KN).

Nauticor chief executive Mahinde Abeynaike said commissioning Kairos secured the availability of LNG as fuel for shipping on a large-scale basis in the Baltic Sea. “With shipping companies having access to a fuel that is not only financially attractive, but also environmentally sustainable,” said Mr Abeynaike, “people and nature in northwest Europe will benefit from a substantial reduction of emissions at sea and in port.”

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, who took over the party leadership from Angela Merkel last December, said Kairos is not only important for the German shipping industry but also addresses “environmental concerns in general and the global move towards more sustainable transport modes at sea.”

Equipped with a cargo-handling and fuelling solution complete with CNG and utilisation capabilities, Kairos eliminates the release of boil-off gas (BOG) and flash gas to the atmosphere during normal operations, providing an environmentally responsible shipping alternative.

In addition to using BOG in its engines, Kairos extracts vapour from receiving ships to use as fuel, which requires additional interfaces between the gas plant and the rest of the ship. The innovative system enables significant reductions in emissions and offers beneficial environmental footprint savings.

Ballast-free design

While the conceptual design for Kairos was developed by BMT Titron, a joint venture of the UK’s BMT Group and Hong Kong’s Titron, its detail design was created by South Korea shipbuilder Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD). The initial contract for construction was awarded in December 2016 and HMD cut the first steel in November 2017.

One of the innovative features developed by HMD for the ice-class LNGBV is its ballast-free design, eliminating the need for a ballast water treatment system (BWTS) and the threat of transporting invasive species.

To develop the ballast-free vessel design, HMD focused on a combination of a special hull form with dead-rise, the forward positioning of the engine room and deckhouse and its twin propulsion system with two azimuth thrusters.

As a result, Kairos uses only a limited volume of permanent fresh water ballast for trim purposes. The smaller diameter of the propellers fitted in the azimuth thrusters enables the vessel to achieve full immersion in all operational conditions, retaining its damage stability and control over the trim and heel without ballasting.

One of HMD’s first obstacles in the development of the design was the speed management by dead-rise. In general, dead-rise is known to help improve a ship’s stability, which is critical to a ballast-free vessel, but it is also likely to deteriorate the vessel’s speed performance. To counteract this, HMD focused heavily on hull form optimisation and successfully developed a better performing dead-rise hull form, confirmed through wet model testing, according to Lloyd’s Register.

The ballast-free design of the vessel translates into lowers maintenance costs and removes requirements to comply with regulations related to BWTSs.

Flexible loading/unloading

Designed to cater to a wide range of potential receivers, Kairos has a low-level loading/unloading manifold on the port-side, forward of midships, and a stern offloading manifold, in addition to the conventional port and starboard midships manifolds. The midships and port-side manifold will enable Kairos to load and offload at any of the current LNG terminals, floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs) or floating storage and offloading units (FSOs).

LNG is stored in two independent IMO type C tanks that are designed to contain the LNG with a minimum temperature of -163°C and maximum vapour pressure of 3.75 bar(g) and can be transferred to an LNG-fuelled vessel at the rate of about 1,250m³/hour through the cryogenic flexible hoses without ballasting and/or de-ballasting operations. Additionally, the natural vaporising gas from the bunkering vessel and the returned BOG from the LNG-fuelled vessel are compressed up to 220 bar(g), stored in two sets of 40 ft containers and used for propulsion fuel and electric.

HMD senior vice president of initial planning Seung-Ho Jeon, said the ballast-free concept was made a reality by the technology expertise of HMD. “We aim to stand out in the field of eco-friendly business practice," he said.

Lloyd’s Register Korea chief representative and marine manager Jin-Tae Lee, said: "We believe that this design is another remarkable development for HMD to realise the industry’s need for safe, efficient and clean requirements in the shipping industry worldwide."

In action for months

Despite being christened this past February, Kairos has been in operation for some months. Back on 1 November the LNGBV took on a cargo of LNG at the Pengerang LNG regasification terminal in the Malaysian state of Johor on its delivery voyage from South Korea to the Baltic Sea.

It was the first small-scale loading of LNG carried out at the Petronas-operated Pengerang facility since it commenced commercial operations in November 2017.

The Kairos' reload operation involved a close collaboration between all relevant Petronas units, including Petronas Gas Berhad and Pengerang LNG (Two), and other key maritime sector stakeholders such as the Marine Department of Malaysia, Johor Port Authority and Johor Port Berhad.

“We believe that small-scale LNG opportunities will increase from the utilisation of alternative cleaner fuels such as LNG,” said PLL chief executive officer Ezhar Yazid Jaafar in the statement.

Ice-class 1A Kairos is based in Klaipeda, the same port where the 170,000-m3 FSRU Independence is berthed. Kairos is supplied with LNG from Independence.

Kairos can function as both an LNGBV and a coastal distribution tanker. The ability to carry out STS trans-shipment operations is central to the vessel bunkering role.

Kairos is equipped with Babcock’s Fuel Gas Supply Vessel Zero (FGSV0) technology, which integrates its fuel system with the cargo systems, allowing BOG and flash gas, which would otherwise be lost during operations, to be collected as CNG, and used as fuel.

Integral components of the FGSV0 system are high-pressure CNG Titan tanks supplied by Hexagon Lincoln, a subsidiary of Hexagon Composites.

The Titan cylinders will store compressed BOG from the LNG tanks and flash gas from cargo operations and supply the CNG as fuel to the ship's four-stroke, dual-fuel Wärtsilä propulsion engines.

"By compressing the boil-off and flash gas and supplying it as fuel to the ship's engines, our clients will save distillate fuel costs and at the same time reduce the vessel's emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter," said Babcock LGE process general manager Andrew Scott. "In addition, we eliminate fugitive emissions of LNG from the cargo systems, providing a true zero emissions solution."

"We are really pleased to have been chosen by Babcock LGE Process to work on this cutting-edge project,” said Hexagon Lincoln vice president mobile pipeline Americas Miguel Raimao. “Babcock's boil-off-gas recovery system is an innovative way of meeting stringent emission regulations. It is a cost-effective way for vessel operators to address environmental concerns, and our Titan tanks are a key enabler for achieving this."

Mr Raimao continued: “The LNGBV’s wide-ranging STS transfer rate capability, from 60 up to 1,250 m³/hour, is achieved through a combination of different-sized pumps and a variable-speed drive. The design enables the charterer to meet the needs of a wide spectrum of potential customers … with tight time constraints on fuelling due to strict port turnaround timetables.”

LNG bunkering infrastructure on the rise

Whilst the number of owners using LNG as a marine fuel represents less than 1% of the world fleet, the segment has been growing, driven by the 1 January 2020 deadline for IMO’s sulphur cap. More than 90% of the world fleet will use the most straightforward way of complying — burning marine gas oil or ultra-low sulphur fuel oil.

The remainder of the fleet will use either exhaust gas cleaning systems and continue to burn heavy fuel oil, or use a gas-derived fuel such as LNG to comply.

As of this year, there are 144 LNG-fuelled vessels in operation, 63 on order and another 112 that are designated as LNG ready, according to DNV GL. One of the hurdles for widespread adoption of LNG as a marine fuel has been the lack of small-scale LNG infrastructure to refuel vessels. However, that is rapidly changing.

In Europe, there are now 39 operational, 12 under construction and another dozen planned LNG bunkering facilities, with 11 operational bunker ships, one under construction and another six planned, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe.

Another milestone for Kairos

On 22 February, Kairos transported LNG from the Klaipeda LNG Terminal to the LNG reloading station, marking the 10th LNG reloading operation in which a gas carrier transported LNG from the terminal to ground storage tanks. It was the third such operation by Kairos in Klaipėda this year.

Since the start of operations at the LNG reloading station in October 2017, gas carriers chartered by Shell, Gasum and other companies have also moored at the KN berth.

Market participants in Klaipėda have been more actively using both the service of LNG acceptance from gas carrier ships and temporary storage, and the service of LNG reloading to LNG semi-trailer trucks. In 2018, tank semi-trailer trucks were loaded with 240 units of cargo or over 64,000 MWh of LNG, and gas was transported to Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian and Polish clients.

“The LNG infrastructure in Klaipėda developed by KN, as well as favourable global growth trends of the small-scale LNG market open up opportunities for us to generate extra revenues from commercial activities,” said KN chief executive Mindaugus Jusius. “These funds could be allocated for the reduction of costs of maintenance of the current natural gas infrastructure, thus respectively contributing to the reduction of expenses related to the maintenance of the LNG Terminal with respect to consumers,” added Mr Jusius.

“The number of LNG-fuelled vessels, more than a half of which are used across Europe, has been rapidly increasing worldwide, and the LNG bunkering infrastructure has been developed and expanded in many ports,” he said. “International analysts forecast that 2019 will be the year of expansion of the small-scale LNG business. KN has been ready to start this year – we have all necessary tools in Klaipėda to supply the cleanest marine fossil fuel with minimum emission to the sea in all Baltic Sea ports,” said Mr Jusius.

The group of clients for the LNG reloading station has also been expanded by the increasing number of operations of small-scale LNG carriers. In late January, Klaipėda LNG Terminal carried out the 20th reloading operation, and since early 2017 – the start of this type of activity – small-scale carriers reloaded almost 144,000 m3 of LNG (in 2018 – 47,200 m3).

Klaipėda LNG reloading station is an above ground LNG Terminal operated on the third-party access basis, which started its operation on 27 October 2017. The LNG reloading station, located next to the gate of the port of Klaipėda, has five above ground LNG tanks with the capacity of 1,000 m3 and facilities for bunkering, LNG reloading from and to ships, as well as semi-trailer trucks.



Owner: Babcock Schulte Energy

Builder: Hyundai Mipo Dock

Year built: 2018

Deadweight: 4,400 t

Type: LNG bunker vessel

Length, oa: 117 m

Beam: 20 m

Draught, laden: 5.2 m

Cargo capacity: 7,500 m3