(EnergyAsia, December 15 2011, Thursday) — Forty-eight carrier ships will soon be fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG), with more to follow, said consultant Zeus Development Corporation which will share this and other findings from its survey of the marine industry at an upcoming conference in Houston, Texas.

The company will discuss the use of LNG as a marine fuel when it hosts the World LNG Fuels Conference on January 25 to 26.

In the US, natural gas prices are hovering at a 10-year low of less than US$3.50 per million BTU. However, in Asia, prices have nearly tripled to around US$17-$18 since Japan began reducing its nuclear energy use following the Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster in the earthquake-tsunami tragedy of March 2011.

Tom Campbell, analyst at Zeus, said: “Low natural gas prices make the switch to LNG-fuel tempting for some marine operators. However, it is the enforcement of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) emissions standards that is driving the trend.”

In 2015 and 2016, the IMO’s Tier III standards ratchet down sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions in a 200 nautical mile radius around North America and Europe, known as emission control areas. The alternatives to LNG include scrubbers and after-exhaust treatment systems, which are expensive and cumbersome.

“Fleets tend to use after-exhaust treatment systems for existing ships, but newbuild ships that can be designed for LNG’s characteristics tend to use LNG,” Mr Campbell said.

In the past two years, he said 11 new LNG-fuelled ships have been built, including patrol vessels, fuelling barges, tugboats and ferries. Within these categories, LNG usage varies from high-speed ferries to large cruiser ferries.

According to Zeus, the use of LNG as a marine fuel is beginning to take root in South America, the Gulf of Mexico, Quebec, Washington State and New York. Alongside the trend are proposals for fuelling facilities. New bunkering facilities are being discussed in Trinidad and Tobago, Dubai and Singapore.

Zeus said the speakers at the World LNG Fuels Conference include Shane Guidry, chairman and CEO of Harvey Gulf, which has ordered two LNG-fuelled offshore service vessels, Captain James DeSimone, chief operations officer for the Staten Island Ferry, and Val Noel, president of Pacer Cartage, who is slated to take delivery of its first four of 40 LNG-fuelled Kenworth T440 trucks for operation in Los Angeles.