What if factory-of-the-future technologies could also be put to use a long way from firm ground? This is the purpose of the project conducted by Global LNG, aimed at equipping its liquefied natural gas carriers with the Blu.e digital energy efficiency platform. The objective? To make ships more energy-efficient and safer.
Smart LNG carrier thanks to data
Ships may no longer have sails, but sometimes they have a brain! Proof is these three LNG carriers in the ENGIE Group’s fleet, which today have a smart piloting system. “We have collected a huge amount of as-yet untapped data on one of our ships. With Blu.e’s help, we have been able to structure, visualise and analyse the data”, explained Pierre-Yves Duclos, Shipping Technical Manager at Global LNG. This ENGIE business unit oversees the technical monitoring of the LNG carriers the energy company either owns or charters.
Analysis of its energy performance at sea
This trial scheme, which began in 2015, has already incorporated part of the usable data concerning the operation of an initial test boat on the Blu.e platform. This should enable an analysis of its energy performance at sea. Another aspect examined in this project is the quality of the container. “LNG is a gas that has been liquefied. Its physical behaviour is constantly changing because there is always a bit of heat entering an LNG carrier. It is therefore important for us to know how the LNG is behaving in the tank.” To deal with this aspect, Global LNG is working with the ENGIE lab CRIGEN (the ENGIE Group’s research centre), which has the expertise in LNG behaviour and whose work can therefore complement Blu.e’s endeavours.
The choice of a collaborative approach
For best results, the three partners opted for a collaborative approach revolving around regular steering meetings. “Our objective was for everyone to contribute their view. The idea is to discuss the project all together, then divide up the task for greater efficiency. Each partner has independent access to the platform so that it can study in detail the aspects it is involved with. The findings are then discussed at a meeting with the other two bodies.” By combining their data, the three partners have been able to devise new criteria for monitoring – and hence optimising – the ship’s performance.
Reducing methane evaporation in the tanks
The first benefits to be gained from this scheme concern methane evaporation in the tanks, known as “boil-off gas” (BOG). LNG carriers use the BOG produced at sea as fuel, but it is often excess to requirements and this excess is lost. Reducing evaporation in the tanks reducing the quantities of gas lost and, ultimately, reduces the ship’s energy consumption.
The Blu.e platform has also revealed a number of best practices that will help operators handle these complex situations and avoid the resonance phenomena caused by the sea’s movements, by adjusting the ship’s speed and heading, when possible. The partners believe that, with the help of Big Data and their exchanges, they will soon be able to identify operational means to curb resonance.
In time, the scheme should also be able to establish the optimum level of use of the engines and equipment on-board. But to tackle these challenges, more ships will have to be fitted out with instruments to expand the database and provide input for comparison. The teams have identified LNG carriers that are potentially compatible with the Blu.e platform. The project is launched: bon voyage!
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