Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) said it will convert its two "Orca class" trailer ships to run on liquefied natural gas to make them "among the cleanest in the world."
TOTE says in an article in its company magazine that engineering, design and installation of new engine kits and construction of an LNG plant will take about five years and $84 million.
The company uses the two ships, Midnight Sun
and North Star,
to offer twice weekly service between Tacoma, Wash. and Anchorage, Alaska.
The company said on Friday that it has received a permit from the Coast Guard providing a conditional waiver from requirements to burn 1 percent sulfur fuel in the Emissions
Control Area while it makes the conversions. On Aug. 1 the Coast Guard began enforcement of the MARPOL Annex VI
regulation 14.4 that requires use of 1 percent sulfur fuel while the industry pursues conversion of its vessels to
alternative fuels. MARPOL regulations allow as much as 3.5 percent sulfur in bunker fuel in areas outside ECAs.
TOTE said that to its knowledge, "this will be the first conversion in
the world of vessels of this type."
"While LNG has been used in the European short-sea shipping market for some time, TOTE would be the first to convert a large ocean-going vessel to natural gas," the company added.
The company said conversion to LNG would allow it to exceed the sulfur
reduction goals of the ECA by 95 percent and result in significant reductions in particulate matter, nitrogen oxides
and carbon dioxide.
John Parrott, president of TOTE, said in the magazine, “We have a
conversion plan that will essentially overhaul the engines with no
impacts to our service schedule. Most of the work will be done underway -
it’s going to be amazing to see.”
The company said the benefits from conversion would "continue to accrue
and compound over the next thirty years or longer" as the shoreside LNG
infrastructure needed for the project "may help other
transportation industries in Puget Sound follow TOTE in converting to
LNG. This could result in a significant increase in air quality
throughout the Puget Sound region."
TOTE said it's working with organizations in Tacoma "to establish LNG distribution and fueling systems, which will require extensive coordination and construction activities and significant public and private investment."
“The Port of Tacoma has been supportive, as have industry partners who are anxious to have such a large anchor customer for LNG in the area,”
said Phil Morrell, vice president of marine and terminal operations for TOTE. “Building an LNG facility in this area would be a major boon for the region, and is largely dependent on there being a large customer like TOTE to make it possible.”
TOTE said it is working with the natural gas and electrical utility Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to provide a shoreside LNG fuel operation.
It quotes Kimberly Harris, president and CEO of PSE, as saying "with TOTE taking the shipping industry’s lead in pursuing natural gas as a low-cost, low-emissions fuel, Puget Sound Energy is well positioned to be a local partner in developing the best available LNG technology and facilities for marine customers.” She said the LNG facility would supply not only marine vessels, but all of the utility's customers.
TOTE noted that the two ORCA class ships, built in 2003, were equipped in 2010 with equipment giving them the ability to "cold iron." Whenever the ships are at the dock in Tacoma, they can turn off their engines and plug into the shoreside electric grid.
TOTE said conversion will allow it to use North American natural gas supplies, limiting dependence on foreign oil sources.
"Timing is everything, as LNG only recently emerged as a credible alternative to diesel propulsion for large ocean going commercial vessels and most marine engine manufacturers and shipyards around the world are now working on LNG designs," the company said. - Chris Dupin