Mark Bell, General Manager, Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel (SGMF), tells CWC what initiatives and challenges there are in converting to LNG as a marine fuel.
Tell us about SGMF and its current goals?
SGMF was established at the end of 2013 as an industry based organisation to try and help the industry with the safe and prosperous use of gas as a marine fuel for its members and society as a whole. Board governed and committee led, SGMF provides guidance to the industry based upon members experienced and knowledge. Based in London, with more than 100 members, SGMF networks its members with a technical committee and associated work groups, with a growing industry presence in Europe and more recently North America. Our main areas of focus are technical, safety, environmental, training and competence, quality and quantity, and functional requirements in the best practice of using gas as a marine fuel.
How do you promote best practice in the use of gas as a marine fuel?
Our main resource is our membership and the best practice and experience therein, our technical committee is the ‘engine room’ of SGMF and it decides on what to do when and in what priority. We have a stance and position on most matters technical and safety related, and these tend to be adopted by standards bodies and regulators. We are also developing a position on environmental performance and that is based upon fact and experience together with authoritative academic input.
What initiatives are in place for encouraging the industry to convert to LNG as a fuel?
The industry is looking for these traditionally as the initial costs can be prohibitive, especially when the differential advantage is reduced with a current low oil price. This is a partial eclipse albeit a sustained one but it will pass, when it does the industry will have waited too long and be faced perhaps with an accelerated change possibly being forced upon it by regulation, more widespread ECA’s and so on. Currently we see Ports gathering to provide shipping with strategic supply and an increasing number of deep sea projects which is notable as they look to the medium/long-term as opposed to the short term issues.
What are the challenges around converting to LNG as a fuel?
We see very few conversion projects, in almost all cases these prove less than worthwhile unless there is a long term charter, an inland waterway or specific back to back service. There are very many scrubber projects on existing
vessels yet almost none on new builds. When it comes to a new build or replacement that is where we see step change in uptake of alternative fuels including of course gas. A conversion is difficult in terms of space, machinery conversion and other factors which all impede on profitability. A new build is designed from scratch for gas thereby very much easier to accommodate and often vastly improve on the previous design.
What are you looking forward to at CWC’s LNG Fuels Summit?
Last year there was refreshing information from other sectors outside of maritime and a compare/contrast of the issues in those sectors to shipping. I look forward to hearing of and contributing to, the discussion of the same as we move forward.