Biggest and best gas ships conference yet

01 Nov 2012
The third ‘Motorship’ Gas Fuelled Ships conference attracted a capacity crowd

The third ‘Motorship’ Gas Fuelled Ships conference attracted a capacity crowd

Experts and users alike gathered in Bergen, Norway, recently for The Motorship’s third, and biggest, gas fuelled ships conference, and enjoyed three days – and one night - of discussion and site visits.

Bergen was chosen because it is the centre of some of the longest-established LNG-fuelled ship operations, enjoying terminals, distribution points and an engine builder in the vicinity. It was at the last-named of these that the event began, with a reception and factory tour hosted by Rolls-Royce at the Bergen engine factory. Here, both gas- and diesel-fuelled engines are built – Rolls-Royce is a firm advocate of the single-fuel solution, as we were later to see. Although the nature and properties of the fuels are different, the basic components of both types of engine are similar, reinforcing the fact that although LNG may be described as the ‘fuel for the future’, the technologies involved are long-established and well-proven.

The conference itself was ably chaired by Martin Shaw, a marine consultant with long experience including involvement with LNG projects, as technical vice-president with BP Shipping, and a spell as a director of SEAaT. He introduced Kjell Martin Sandaker, of Eidesvik Offshore, who gave the keynote speech. Eidesvik is one of the pioneers in using gas fuel for offshore support ships, the fleet including, among other gas fuelled ships in service and on order, the well-known Viking Lady, which features a fuel cell and a battery hybrid power system as well as LNG-fuelled main engines.

Over the two days, the conference explored a wide variety of subjects; operational and commercial as well as purely technical and safety-related, in presentations by shipowners, class societies, regulatory bodies, fuel suppliers, shipbrokers, academics, shipbuilders and, of course, machinery and equipment suppliers. One ever-present theme was the ‘chicken and egg’ situation regarding bunkering and infrastructure. The infrastructure can be put in place once there is a demand for LNG bunkers, but ships will still hesitate to adopt gas fuel unless bunker supply can be assured.

As at least one speaker said, though, “the chickens have arrived”. Aksel Skjervheim of Gasnor said this when pointing out that it was possible, even now, to supply ships with LNG throughout Europe, because contracts are in place for tapping supplies from major LNG terminals, and new bunker stations can be made available in less than the time taken to build the ships.

Another interesting debate was whether dual-fuel or pure gas was the best solution. Shipowners and engine developers gave some strong opinions in support of either option. It is clear that each has its own advantages – we have explored most of these in the pages of this magazine – and no clear winner emerged from the debate which did, at times, become intense.

The two conference days were punctuated by the conference dinner, held at the top of the hill overlooking Bergen, with some spectacular views down over the town to the fjord. This was supported by GE Marine, one of many sponsors and supporters behind the event. Rolls-Royce was Gold sponsor, DNV and Bureau Veritas Silver sponsors, ABS sponsored the coffee breaks, Gasnor the closing reception, while other sponsors included Lloyd’s Register, Germanischer Lloyd, Heinzmann, Kistler, Liquiline and ATP Instone.

What set the third GFS conference apart from its predecessors, and the other similar events that have sprung up in the wake of GFS’s success, was the programme of technical visits. The first was overnight after the close of the actual conference, and was a visit to the Halhjem ferry terminal to see an actual LNG refuelling plant, and witness a live LNG bunkering of one of the ferries, something which is only carried out at night when the ferries are not operating. Despite very poor weather conditions which rather limited what we could see, delegates got a tour of the facility and a good view of the actual refuelling.

On the following morning, delegates first visited the CCB bunkering facility, used mostly by offshore support vessels. This, like Halhjem, is fed by road tankers. But a vision of what is possible in the near future came with the following visit to the Statoil/Kollsnes gas terminal. Here, gas is received from the offshore fields – mostly from the Troll field – processed, and piped to where it is needed. The terminal supplies locations not only in Norway, but also, via pipelines, mainland Europe and Scotland. So tapping into this existing and operational facility will be a relatively straightforward process for large-scale LNG bunkering anywhere in Northern Europe.

Finally, by a particularly fortunate coincidence, at the end of the event an Eidesvik PSV moored right outside the venue, appropriately enough displaying ‘Fuelled by LNG’ in large lettering on the topsides. The ship, Viking Princess had just been completed by Kleven Maritime, and was there for the official naming ceremony by its sponsor, the Crown Princess of Norway, HRH Crown Princess Mette-Merit.

Kjell Sandaker of Eidesvik, who had given the keynote address at the conference, told us: "The location was chosen as it was just at this location we had the naming ceremony almost 10 years ago for our first gas powered vessel, the Viking Energy which was the world's first gas powered cargo ship."

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