Comparison

In order to show the true revenue making potential of gas turbine driven LNGC alternatives, they have to be compared with the current state-of-the-art conventional LNGC. First of all, on the basis of many contact with the LNG shipping community the most likely LNGC configuration was selected on the basis of technological merits.

Initially, calculations showed the gas turbine electric podded drive LNGC to have the best revenue making capacity, with its high cargo capacity and highly efficient propulsion system. However, in the light of recent events involving podded drive failures, it seems that the reliability of these systems does not yet comply with the requirements of the LNG shipping industry.

The next best alternative, the gas turbine mechanical drive LNGC offers unsurpassed thermal efficiency and high cargo capacity. However, the durability of the reduction gear, clutches and reversing gear for the FPP in commercial marine application is as yet unknown. Some owners have voiced objections to an alternative equipped with a CPP, citing its slightly lower propulsion efficiency.

The gas turbine electric drive LNGC combines excellent thermal efficiency and high cargo capacity, paired with the use of proven technology in the power train. Electric drive systems have gained some acceptance within the LNG shipping community, as illustrated by the order for one 74,000 cubic meter diesel-electric drive LNGC at Chantiers de l'Atlantique last year. Reliability, redundancy and revenue are the key words to this propulsion alternative.

To check the economic viability of the gas turbine electric drive LNGC, a cost calculation model has been designed using a range of input parameters to calculate long run economic performance under differing circumstances and on different trading routes. Three LNG trades are simulated; the short trade (Algeria - France), the medium trade (Trinidad - Spain) and the long trade (Qatar - Korea/Japan). Two different liquid fuel price levels, representing the extremes of the last ten years, have been used to check the survivability of the gas turbine drive alternatives in changing economic circumstances.

Six different aero-derivative gas turbines configuration have been selected to take part in the comparison, making this study the first full-scale performance comparison of all major aero-derivative gas turbine makes for commercial marine propulsion.

 

Voyage Parameters
Short
Medium
Long
Itinerary
Voyage Length
1,5
5,0
14,0
days
Maneuvering
0,125
days
Loading Time
1,00
days
Off-loading Time
1,00
days
Non-workable Days Per Year
5
days
Cargo Capacities LNGC Alternatives
Gas Turbine Mechanical Drive LNGC        157 000 cubic meter
Gas Turbine Electric Drive LNGC        157 000 cubic meter
Gas Turbine Electric Podded Drive LNGC        160 000 cubic meter
Conventional Steam Turbine Driven LNGC        138 000 cubic meter
Technical Parameters
Effective Capacity
98,5%
of the nominal cargo capacity
Boil Off Fraction when Loaded
0,15%
of cargo volume / 24 h
Boil Off Fraction when in Ballast
0,04%
of cargo volume / 24 h
Gas/Liquid ratio
618.1
LNG Density
475
kg/m3
LNG LHV
48 422
kJ/kg
MGO LHV
42 700
kJ/kg
HFO LHV
41 200
kJ/kg
Propulsion Load when Loaded
26 000
kW
Propulsion Load in Ballast
23 500
kW
Maneuvering Load
5 000
kW
Sea Load
1 200
kWe
Harbor Load
1 500
kWe
Cargo Loading Load
2 400
kWe
Cargo Discharging Load
4 500
kWe
Fuel Gas Compressor Load when Loaded
1 500
kWe
Fuel Gas Compressor Load in Ballast
1 200
kWe
Gearbox Efficiency
98%
Frequency Converter Efficiency
98%
Electric Motor Efficiency
98%
Shafting Efficiency
99%
Boiler Efficiency
88%
Steam Turbine Efficiency
35%
HRSG in Fired Boiler Mode Efficiency
80%
Steam Turbine Generator Efficiency
25%
Podded Drive Propulsion Efficiency Increase
5%
Financing Parameters
Capital cost
12,00%
per year
Economic lifespan
20,0
years
Financing cost
10,00%
of contract value
Pre-delivery cost
3,50%
of contract value
Residual value
$15 000 000
Bunker Price Level
Low
High
 
HFO380
$70,00
$180,00
per ton 
MGO
$150,00
$310,00
per ton 
LNG Pricing
Short
Medium
Long
Itinerary
LNG FOB
$2,30
$2,30
$2,30
/MMBTU
LNG CIF
$2,80
$3,10
$3,65
/MMBTU
Operational Parameters
Crew Cost
$13 000
per day
Harbour Dues
$100 000
per arrival
P&I
$1 500
per day
Miscellaneous
$1 000
per day
Maintenance Budget
Conventional LNGC
$3 000
per day
Gas turbine maintenance surcharge

GT1

$60
per fired hour

GT2

$60
per fired hour

GT3

$60
per fired hour  

GT4

$80
per fired hour

GT5

$80
per fired hour

GT6

$60
per fired hour

 

Three alternative fuel schedules have been used in this comparison:

  • Round Trip BOG + LF: the natural BOG is supplemented with liquid fuel on both the loaded and the ballast trip. The conventional LNGC burns BOG and HFO 380, while the gas turbine electric drive LNGC burns BOG and MGO;
  • Round trip BOG + FVG: on both the loaded voyage and the ballast voyage the full energy needs are covered by the available natural BOG, supplemented with Forced Vaporized Gas (FVG);
  • Loaded BOG + LF Ballast LF: on the loaded voyage the energy requirements are covered by the available BOG, supplemented with liquid fuel. On the ballast voyage only liquid fuel is used.

The results are presented in the diagrams below:

Long itinerary

High (left) v/s Low (right) Liquid Fuel Prices

Medium Itinerary

High (left) v/s Low (right) Liquid Fuel Prices

 

Short Itinerary

High (left) v/s Low (right) Liquid Fuel Prices

There are a number of preliminary conclusion to be drawn:

  • First of all, the cargo quantities delivered by all gas turbine driven LNGCs are substantially higher than that of the conventional LNGC, which translates in additional income;
  • Quite surprisingly, high liquid fuel prices are actually favourable for the gas turbine propulsion system. The explanation is that the thermal efficiency of the gas turbine based propulsion plants is so high that the effects of high liquid fuel prices on the total operating cost are much less than for the steam turbine powered conventional LNGC. On the loaded voyage, the gas turbine driven LNGC hardly needs any liquid fuel, while the conventional LNGC relies on liquid fuel for about 40% of its total energy requirements;
  • On shorters trades, the effects of an increase in cargo capacity are more pronounced than on longer trades. On the short trade, a gas turbine electric driven LNGC transports the equivalent of 9.6 conventional LNGC cargoes extra per year, against 1.7 extra cargoes on the long trade. The additional revenue from this additional cargo improves return on investment significantly, which in turn makes it easier to finance such a newbuilding project;
  • Even on long trades, with low liquid fuel prices, the gas turbine driven LNGC still generates over USD. 110M in additional revenue over a 20 year period, even whenthe ballast voyage has to be made on liquid fuel only. This worst case scenario clearly illustrates that gas turbine driven LNGCs provide a safe and steady stream of additional revenue even under the "worst" of circumstances;
  • Gas turbine powered LNGCs are flexible and profitable under all circumstances. Switching between long and short charters does influence the overall rate of return on investment, but it will always be substantially higher than the ROI of conventional LNGCs. Fuel costs for long ballast voyages on liquid fuel only are indeed higher than those of conventional LNGCs, but much lower fuel cost for the loaded voyage more than compensate this disadvantage. This makes the gas turbine powered LNGC also suitable for the carriage of spot cargoes, which sometimes requires longer ballast voyages without heel;
  • The gas turbines GT1, GT2, GT3 and GT6 show almost identical performance, which brings increased competition to LNGC propulsion market, currently dominated by two Japanese steam turbine manufacturers. The resulting effect on the general price level for LNGC newbuildings can be very beneficial for owners considering fleet extentions or renewal.

Additional calculations show that, under certain circumstances, it is economically feasible to re-engine a conventional LNGC with a gas turbine electric drive power plant incorporating gas turbine types GT1, GT2, GT3 or GT6, even if the cargo capacity is not increased. However, the conversion should take place early in the charter for the conversion to be profitable and the vessel will not have the same flexibility and high ROI as LNGCs especially designed to exploit the benefits of gas turbine propulsion to the maximum.

More information on the gas turbine types and configurations can be obtained from MPT Consultancy.