Vince Jenkins Lloyd's Register

Lloyd’s Register: Yes, We Have Ways of Making Shipboard LNG Storage Tanks Work

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February 1, 2012

Vince Jenkins Lloyd's Register

Lloyd’s Register’s Global Marine Risk Adviser, Vince Jenkins, takes an optimistic view of a technical issue in the latest issue of Lloyd’s Register’s Horizons.

The location of storage tanks is a key issue for shipowners, designers, builders and classification societies as the industry explores the potential of
using LNG to power the global fleet.  It is particularly important on vessels such as cruise ships, containerships and ferries where there is little or no alternative to LNG bunker space within or below a vessel’s accommodation area.

Views vary from the opponents who say it should not even be considered to those who believe it should be possible to engineer such a system safely.  Obviously there are always trade-offs to be made. In this case, the environmental benefit of using LNG as fuel needs to be weighed against a factual or perceived view that safety will suffer.

I have in fact thought about the challenge of tank location from three different perspectives:

  1. More than 10 years ago, Europe’s skies were full, using the gold-plated standard that had been set in terms of 3D separation between planes. This standard would have had to change if more planes were to get into the skies.  The standard, like so many, had evolved from people making both a best-case and cautious estimate of what would be safe at the time. European Air Traffic Control evolved the aircraft separation distance by understanding where the pinch points were, and so had a high degree of confidence in reducing the separation distances where acceptable.
  2. mark webber crashThe 2010 Canadian Formula One Grand Prix involved a car crash at close to 200 mph when the Australian driver Mark Webber’s Red Bull car flipped over. Most people expected him to have at least major injuries. He walked away from the car, not even visibly shaken, let alone injured. Operating at the cutting-edges of engineering, Formula One has made huge advances in the last decade or so.
  3. Submarines are quite extraordinary pieces of engineering. They withstand immense pressures, operate in three dimensions, and are designed to withstand significant external shock requirements. Most have nuclear power plants within them, with operators standing within metres of a critical reactor.  Such submarine technology has been around for almost 60 years.

So can we safely incorporate LNG tanks into or below shipboard accommodation?

We undoubtedly can. The cost of achieving it may be significant, but the technology and design capability is certainly about to achieve it.

Class societies are a keystone of safety in the marine industry. They also need to be visionary from time to time. In Lloyd’s Register’s case we are a charity and everyone in society is our stakeholder. Hence we need to provide a framework that will allow innovation – while ensuring the balance between environmental gain and safety is duly considered.

In the past, Lloyd’s Register and other class societies have achieved this by developing prescriptive rules. There is a move to a more goal-based approach to drive rule development. And as this article goes to print, this is exactly what we are doing on the subject of LNG tank placement within or under accommodation.

We cannot yet judge what the outcome of such development work will be, but we are certainly looking at it to enable such technology to be embraced within the industry.


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