Understanding A Future Fuel

By Mike Brezonick12 May 2017

Caterpillar Marine has announced the unveiling of the first LNG (liquefied natural gas) test bed for gas-fueled engines at its facility in Kiel, Germany. The LNG preparation unit consists of an LNG tank and a gas preparation unit, both in 40 ft. container size and both developed and supplied by Marine Service GmbH, Hamburg.

With the expected expansion of LNG engines in the marine markets, Caterpillar aims to improve its understanding of the technology and enhance the service it provides to clients adopting LNG. The company is already active in LNG systems with its MaK-branded dual fuel engines, which are capable of running on marine diesel oil (MDO) or natural gas.

 “LNG offers obvious benefits to marine power and it’s considered a true future fuel,” said Georg Gillert, engineering supervisor for Caterpillar Marine. “It burns cleaner than other fuels, emitting low amounts of nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), particulate matter and carbon dioxide. When handled properly, LNG offers a clear path to regulation compliance with all current and future standards.”

LNG also provides greater energy density than natural gas in its gaseous form and it’s possible to store up to 600 times more LNG than standard natural gas, the company said.

 “Caterpillar’s LNG test bed in Kiel is a milestone in LNG development,” said Gillert. “While LNG is a promising fuel, it does offer unique challenges. LNG has to be kept at extremely low temperatures to prevent it from vaporizing, and this requires additional gas handling components not found in other power systems. New engine and gas handling architecture is needed to take full advantage of LNG’s emissions benefits. Customized monitoring and control processes will also be needed to optimize fuel/air composition and safe engine operation.” 

Caterpillar said the Kiel test bed will have several key focuses:

– Familiarizing Caterpillar personnel with LNG capabilities bringing Caterpillar engineers and technicians  up to speed quickly.

– Demonstrating LNG benefits to Caterpillar’s clients. The Kiel test bed will arm Caterpillar sales personnel and dealers with valuable information regarding the technology. This information will be passed on to clients to help them make informed decisions regarding their vessels.

– Testing and improving LNG components, with MaK engines among the immediate beneficiaries of LNG advancements.

– Developing LNG plants for actual operations. Cat said further optimization is needed to efficiently support refueling operations in the field. The Kiel test bed will assist with this optimization, and ready field personnel for the challenges LNG poses.

– Facilitate customer training to not only become familiar with LNG, but also teach customers important safety information regarding LNG handling and operational procedures.

An illustration of how Caterpillar’s MaK-branded dual fuel marine engine can be integrated into a vessel.

Caterpillar Marine handles the marketing and service activities for Cat and MaK marine diesel, dual fuel and gas power and propulsion systems within Caterpillar. It offers power solutions in the medium- and high-speed segments with outputs from 93 to 16,800 kW in main propulsion and 10 to 16,100 kWe in marine generator sets as well as a portfolio of propulsion solutions.

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