Composite technology previously developed for spacecraft is being adapted to create LNG fuel systems for ships, as part of the SPACE TECH4SEA program.
The new fuel tank designs use a composite technology which will be lighter and more cost-effective to make, allowing LNG to become a competitive alternate fuel for short sea shipping.
SPACE TECH4SEA is a joint venture between the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), OceanFinance and Scorpius Space Launch Co. (SSLC). The project was granted €1 million by the European Commission.
ABS Vice President for Global Gas Solutions, Patrick Janssens, said: “ABS remains at the forefront of LNG innovation by partnering with ground-breaking companies all over the world. Existing LNG tank technology can make adoption of the fuel prohibitively expensive. This composite technology has proven itself in other industries; we are committed to learning how to safely apply those lessons to benefit the maritime industries.”
Composite carbon fibre technology enables ultra-light, ultra-compact tanks to be developed. With a weight saving of up to 80% compared to existing LNG tank designs, powering the ship requires much less horsepower. And a smaller fuel tank means increased cargo capacity.
For these reasons, the goal is not just to build tanks for new ships, but to retrofit them in to already-operational ships. The project leads also stress that the design is not affected by corrosion and will introduce space technology safety standards to marine operations.
Currently the tanks are made by hand, but the project is planning to transition to a highly automated production line to bring costs down.
OceanFinance’s managing director, Dr. Panayotis Zacharioudakis said: “This technology is a game-changer product that will unlock latent demand for LNG as marine fuel. The benefit of leveraging this US space technology, to improve the environment in European Sea basins, is obvious. We expect introduction of this innovative product will enable sales of more than 2000 tanks in the next 10 years.”
Successful expansion of this technology will make LNG a more viable marine fuel for a much wider range of applications, adding further demand to the growing industry ….
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