BW LPG opts for LPG bunkers

Four of BW’s LPG vessels will be retrofitted with dual-fuel engines. Credit: Southern Cross Media
Four of BW’s LPG vessels will be retrofitted with dual-fuel engines. Credit: Southern Cross Media

BW LPG will become the first shipowner to burn liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a marine fuel.

The world’s largest owner of very large gas carriers (VLGCs) said on 30 August that four of its vessels will be retrofitted with dual-fuel engines, with the works coinciding with drydocking in 2020.

BW LPG said more of its ships could be retrofitted thereafter, but did not mention which shipyard would undertake the works or how the LPG-based fuel was developed.

Part of BW Group, BW LPG owns 35 VLGCs, 3 large gas carriers, and has 2 VLGCs under construction. Its Indian venture has two VLGCs. The company is considering further consolidation and is holding out an offer to acquire Dorian LPG, which owns more than 20 ships.

Addressing the move, BW LPG’s chief executive officer, Martin Ackermann, said, “BW LPG has been preparing for IMO 2020 [International Maritime Organization’s global emissions cap, set to go into effect in 2020] for years, and today we will be the global pioneer in operating next-generation, high-tech green ships with dual-fuel propulsion. Responsible operations and profitability are not conflicting goals. Rather, they are pre-conditions for each other. This retrofitting is just one way in which we ensure that our shareholders invest in a forward-looking company that positions itself well for future challenges.”

With LPG propulsion, BW LPG will reduce its sulphur oxide emissions by up to 97%, complying fully with all current and future sulphur emissions requirements.

This means the retrofitted ships, when operating on LPG, will go beyond the IMO’s 0.5% sulphur emissions standard to be in full compliance with Emission Control Areas (ECA) and Sulphur Emission Control Areas’ 0.1% sulphur limit. In addition, with LPG fuel, BW LPG will cut emissions of particulate matters by about 90%, greenhouse gases by about 25%, and nitrogen oxides by nearly 20%.

The IMO’s forthcoming regulation restricts sulphur content in marine fuels to 0.5%, from its current limit of 1%. Shipowners can choose to install scrubbers or opt for low-sulphur fuel oil or other fuels such as liquefied natural gas.

BW LPG said that as a marine fuel, LPG offers gains on many fronts. Output efficiencies will improve by approximately 11% with LPG when compared with that of compliant fuels.

Other efficiencies gained by LPG include easy storage, faster refueling, and the wide availability of bunkering ships and facilities.

In addition, burning LPG provides a buffer from price sensitivity to post-2020 fuel price scenarios with full dual-fuel flexibility.

LPG-propelled engines are also cleaner and cheaper to maintain.

Other shipowners and LPG players are in the process of developing LPG-fuelled vessels as well.

Japan’s largest LPG trader, Astomos Energy Corporation, is designing an LPG-fuelled bulk carrier, while the Korea LPG Association is looking to launch LPG-based bunkers in South Korea.