Study evaluates the feasibility of the use of natural gas in the Brazilian maritime industry

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Natural gas, used in land transport in cars and heavy duty vehicles such as buses and trucks, has gained ground in sea transport to supply ships in countries like the United States and Norway. A group of researchers at the Research Center for Innovation in Natural Gas – Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI, its acronym in English) – supported by FAPESP, BG Group, Shell and research institutions, has studied the feasibility of using in Brazil the fuel considered “transitional” for having a cleaner burning than other fossil fuels used in marine applications.
The project scope was presented during the “1st Day Sustainable Gas Research & Innovation Conference 2016” held on 27 and 28 September in Sao Paulo. The event brought together about 140 researchers from RCGI and Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI) from Imperial College London, England, to discuss research, development and innovation in natural gas, biogas and hydrogen, including new technologies and applications and forms reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

“I will initially a roadmap [set of guidelines and instructions] to assess the possibilities of using natural gas in the Brazilian maritime industry, taking into account technological, economic and environmental factors,” said Claudio Muller Prado Sampaio, a professor at the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (Poli-USP) and one of the project coordinators, the Agency FAPESP.

According to Sampaio, the fuel used today in the international maritime sector is oil or heavy residual fuel – heavy fuel oil (HFO, its acronym in English). The HFO is considered the worst product oil, being the remaining part of the heavy distillation fractions obtained from various oil refining processes, and needs to be heated and purified for use in internal combustion engines to heat generation.

The process oil in combustion engines for generation of heat causes the release to the atmosphere of large quantities of sulfur oxides (NOx) contained in the product and particulate matter, said Sampaio.

In order to regulate the emissions of those pollutants from shipping – responsible for over 3% of global CO2 emissions, reaching 5% in 2050 – the International Maritime Organization (IMO, in its English acronym) established in 2008, that from 2015 the ships sail by calls sulfur emission control areas – such as the Baltic sea, the North sea and the English channel – can not use fuel with more than 0.1% sulfur. And the owners could choose different methods to comply with the regulations.

These methods include the use of fuel with low sulfur, liquefied natural gas for propulsion or the use of scrubbers or other technologies that purify exhaust gases from engines.

This search for fuels with low sulfur content has liquefied natural gas competitive and interesting for the international maritime industry, since it has practically no sulfur and other harmful compounds like nitrogen oxide,” said Sampaio. “Moreover, with the US entry into the shale gas exploration, and to produce a large amount of natural gas, an increase of liquefied natural gas supply in the international market.This led to a cheapening of the product. “

Some producing countries of natural gas, as the United States, went ahead and started building boats with dual fuel engine – powered two types of fuel – and create liquefied natural gas storage areas for refueling vessels. And more recently begun to develop projects of container ships and support to offshore platforms powered by natural gas.

Norway, in turn, subsidized projects aimed to develop vessels with hybrid engines also powered by liquefied natural gas in order to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, pointed Sampaio. “As most of these vessels has been developed abroad, we do not know which techniques were used to build them,” he said.

“We intend to develop craft projects moved to more suitable liquefied natural gas to the Brazilian sea conditions, as less silent, or other dynamic positioning system [used by ships to maintain a stable position to make loading and unloading operations, regardless of conditions sea ​​and wind], “said the professor of Poli-USP.

Brazilian reserves

The researchers also evaluate the availability of natural gas in Brazilian reserves and will offer projections and product demand for the domestic maritime sector in the coming decades.

With 500 billion cubic meters of proven reserves, Brazil has the second largest natural gas reserves in Latin America, second only to Venezuela.

Over the past six years, the increased share of natural gas in the Brazilian energy matrix was 30%. However, today, much of the natural gas produced in the country is reinjected underground, including that portion coming from the pre-salt, estimated at 6.3 billion cubic meters in 2014. In that year, 5.1% of total Brazilian production was burned or lost, and 18.0%, reinjected. Compared to 2013, the volume of burnings and losses in 2014 grew 24.3%, and the reinjection increased 47.8%.

It has now been injected an amount of natural gas in the pre-salt is equivalent to one third of Brazilian consumption” compared Julio Meneghini, academic director of RCGI. “Brazil could fail to import natural gas from Bolivia and replace it with the gas produced in the pre-salt resolve issues such as purification, removal of CO2 and the logistics of distribution.”

According to the researcher, one of the main problems presented by natural gas in the pre-salt layer is that it has a high content of CO2 – which makes it similar to a biogas.

In order to purify it and facilitate the transport and distribution of this gas, the researchers have studied RCGI different routes, Meneghini said. “Today they are being developed in RCGI 29 projects in three research programs – engineering, physical chemistry and energy and economic policies – by multidisciplinary teams of engineers, as well as lawyers, economists, geographers, biologists, energy experts, physical and chemical. “

The RCGI is one of three Collaborative Applied Research Centers created by FAPESP in 2015, involving major partnerships between companies and universities or institutes, all with a contract for up to 10 years to develop advanced research activities.

Result of a partnership between the Foundation, BG Group, Shell, Poli and the Institute for Energy and Environment (IEE), both from USP and the Institute of Energy and Nuclear Research (IPEN), the center is designed to develop research on use and natural gas applications.

The goal is to strengthen its presence in São Paulo and the Brazilian energy matrix and contribute to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

“Every US $ 1 invested by FAPESP in these Applied Research Centers Collaborative mobilizes R $ 1 of the company and R $ 2 university or research institute. This is a good multiplication, “said Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of FAPESP, at the opening ceremony. Also attended the event José Goldemberg, president of FAPESP.

Source: Agency FAPESP
Automatically translated text provided by Google Translator.