Hapag Lloyd targets May for 'Sajir' LNG conversion

The conversion of the 'Sajir' is scheduled to be completed 105 days after entering China’s Huarun Dadong shipyard (HRDD) in May 2020. The conversion of the 'Sajir' is scheduled to be completed 105 days after entering China’s Huarun Dadong shipyard (HRDD) in May 2020.
Industry Database

Hapag Lloyd is planning to begin the LNG conversion process for ‘Sajir’, its 15,000 TEU vessel, in May 2020, it announced in a briefing at its headquarters in Hamburg on 15 May.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 105 days after Sajir enters China’s Huarun Dadong shipyard (HRDD) in May 2020 at an estimated cost of USD30 million, Anthony Firmin, Chief Operating Officer said.

Firmin outlined a number of success criteria against which the Sajir conversion project would be judged, including the environmental performance, the operational performance and the practical experience that Hapag Lloyd would gain from the project.

“As a pilot project, we will learn a lot about operating an LNG fuelled vessel by learning by doing. We need to understand the technical issues, the actual operational power of the engine and so on.”

The economics of the retrofit were a key success metric. “Taking into account the total cost of the retrofit and operating costs, we expect the payback period to be attractive,” Firmin said. LNG is a buyers’ market at the moment, and prices may well decline further over the coming years, Firmin added.

The conversion formed part of Hapag Lloyd’s strategic preparation for tighter environmental regulation. The industry can expect further regulations to reduce sulphur emissions to be implemented on top of existing requirements for 2030 and 2050. LNG represents an intermediate step towards meeting these targets, Firmin said.

Should the project prove to be successful, it is likely that future newbuild orders will be LNG-fuelled. The operator has 16 other “dual-fuel ready” LNG vessels that it acquired from UASC, of which 11 are 15,000 TEU vessels, and the remainder  19,000 TEU vessels.

The case for further conversions might alter if the scope of Germany’s LNG investment scheme was altered to encompass deep-sea vessels that operate outside EU waters for more than half their time.

A range of benefits

Identifying the environmental savings that an LNG fuelled engine can offer represents one of the success criteria for the project. “In an industry where we strive to save 2% of our emissions, the savings that LNG offers are too big to ignore, regardless of whether we are talking about 15 or 25 or 30%,” said Captain Richard von Berlepsch, Managing Director of Hapag Lloyd Fleet Management.

Both Mr Firmin and Captain von Berlepsch stressed that the project represented a learning process for the company. One such area of practical experience was in safety. Training for the vessel’s crew on operating equipment had already begun. This includes hands-on training on carrying out LNG bunkering operations.

The learning operations also extended to operational experience. One new area would be managing the LNG fuel that will be contained in the vessel’s 6,700 cbm capacity membrane tanks. Another was integrating new systems for automation of engine management, fuel gas alarm systems, and alterations to power management with the vessel’s existing control systems. This has involved cooperation with a number of suppliers, including Siemens, Kongsberg, Alfa Laval and Mitsubishi.

Technical aspects of conversion

The former UASC vessel was LNG-ready when the fleet of 17 vessels were acquired. This included a dual-fuel enabled MAN engine, as well as dual-fuel HIMSEN auxiliary engines, and space for a GVU in the main engine room. However, the pipework, the LNG fuel tanks and the fuel gas supply system were not installed.

In some cases, technical standards have progressed since the vessel was constructed, von Berlepsch noted, citing insulation requirements around the LNG tanks to mitigate the risk of nearby steel falling below -30 degree safety tolerances.

“While we acquired a very good ship, retrofitting has meant we have to work within existing constraints,” Firmin noted. The LNG fuel tanks have been located immediately in front of the engine room, as the usual location midships was occupied by the fuel tanks. The height of the bunkering station in the vessel's structure exceeds the capacities of some existing bunker vessels, creating logistical problems that need to be addressed in conjunction with LNG suppliers.

The cumulative impact of the LNG fuel tanks and the FGSS lowered the Sajir’s TEU capacity by almost 300 TEUs.

One aspect of the conversion was that the main dual-fuel propulsion unit and the auxiliary engines operate on different pressure systems, which has led to some duplication within the fuel gas supply system, said Jannes Hangen, naval architect within Hapag-Lloyd’s technical fleet management team.

Engine management

“A key difference between our project and LNG carriers is that there is no reliquefaction system on the Sajir,” said von Berlepsch who sailed on gas carriers earlier in his career. “This means that we will use all of the boil-off gas (BOG) as fuel for the engines.”

As the proportion of pilot fuel used increases once engine loads fall below a certain threshold, maintaining higher engine loads is an objective. Conversely, operating the engines at high loads that exceeded readily available BOG supplies would require the use of heating units to increase the BOG rate. “We are learning how to operate the vessel to maximise fuel efficiency, and reduce sloshing,” Hangen said.

Bearing down on pilot oil consumption overall was one metric for improving the economic case for the project compared with other fuel types, von Berlepsch said.

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