06 October 2022

LPG as a Marine Fuel By Suyash Gupta, Founder and Managing Director, Clean Fuel India

A recent study revealed that fishing vessels alone release more than 200 million tonnes of CO2 into atmosphere annually – which is massive. This underlines that global decarbonisation focus should clearly also include fishing fleets, in addition to large shipping which has been receiving much attention under the new IMO regulations.

To play its role in a viable decarbonisation of the shipping sector, LPG industry globally has been doing a commendable job. LPG industry has endeavoured to cover the complete range. Right from the large LPG shipping vessels – with the success showcased by BW LPG and others, to medium duty engines being converted successfully in the Netherlands and having made way to other proximate regions.

Varied applications of smaller engines include usage for taxi boats to salmon nurseries (usually an eight-hour daily drive) or even the British Lake District police.

But certainly, one of the recent success stories fast shaping up has been in India. With a coastline of more than 7,000 kms, the potential for usage of LPG in Marine engines is immense. Not just in terms of the midsized engines, but the potential of the usage of the smaller engines – the outboards has been significant itself.

Both on the emission side as well as fuel economy and savings, LPG delivered great results. While kerosene at one point used to be a fuel of choice for the fishing community, yet extremely high level of emissions pushed the fleets to bank on the usage of Petrol. However, the spiralling costs of Petrol over the last several years have been really stretching the fishing community hard in terms of the prohibitive costs.

And LPG stepped in and worked tirelessly to explore the possibilities of not just managing the costs but having a significant impact on the emissions as well.

While the running costs revolved around LPG being less than 50% of the cost of Petrol- a reason to convert to LPG by itself, the emission advantages were huge as well. In comparison to the requirements of ISO  18854, the stringent US-EPA emission norms for outboards, LPG’s emission reduction for HC+NOx was more than 51% and CO reduction was, again, in excess of 57%.  The emission reduction was even more stark with respect to the EC norms. 82% reduction for HC+NOx and 62% for CO.

Add to that, the advantage of fully avoiding any oil spills in the marine environment. It is a well-known fact that even a small spill quickly travels over a large area severely impacting the marine life.

However, a key concern for the fishing community was to address the issue of availability of LPG and the right way to address this, was to engage closely with the leading LPG marketers of the country to assure the fishing cooperatives and fleets of an unhindered supply of LPG.

And the role of LPG marketers would be key to make this a success – whether outboards, medium duty inboard engines or the bigger vessels.

The role of LPG becomes even more pertinent considering that, realistically there is no other fuel which can play a role here. Electrification is simply not an option for a multitude of reasons. First, a small boat just cannot carry the heavy and massive batteries and second, an ecosystem to create a charging infrastructure to support any such option also cannot be feasible.

LPG certainly remains as a very compelling and viable option for almost all marine engines - small, medium or large, either for shipping, or fishing…