With the liquefied natural gas project launch in the final stage, new options for using gas as an alternative fuel are emerging. Proposals suggesting natural gas as marine fuel are to be submitted by LNG operators to the authorities shortly. The plan is to have a pilot project in Kerala after the commissioning of the LNG project at Puthuvype here.

Vessels fuelled by natural gas have been plying in different marine routes and coastal waters of several countries in the world and the efficacy of them have been scientifically analysed. The success stories can be replicated in Kerala too, according to natural gas industry sources. The project for utilising natural gas as a marine fuel in Kerala is in conceptual stage and a detailed project report might be presented to the government.

Natural gas could be a fuel for any industry using fossil fuel, says Alex P.Varghese, advisor to Petronet LNG Limited. It would be ideal for a State like Kerala where marine segment is being projected as a major option for public transport, he said.

Kochi is strategically poised to offer modern marine transport services along the coastal route to northern and southern parts of the State as well as the Lakshadweep islands. Kochi has the potential to become the hub of natural gas dispensing stations for the marine fleet.

The proposal assumes significance as vessel operators are facing problems in sourcing diesel. Fishing vessels operating in Kerala coastal waters have encountered difficulties in getting the allocated diesel quota.

LNG passenger vessels are operated in Norway. The first Norwegian LNG ferry was built in 2000. At least 16 LNG fuelled ferries are operating in Norwegian waters now. The functioning of the Norwegian LNG ferries was evaluated by Joint Transportation Committee of USA, which investigated the possibility of using LNG on Washington State ferry vessels.

The committee report, presented in January, 2012, said LNG provides an opportunity to significantly reduce fuel costs and can also have a positive environmental effect by reducing emissions. It also noted that Norway provides various tax incentives, primarily through carbon tax credits.

The cost of building the LNG ferries is 15-20 per cent higher than diesel ferries. But Norwegian ferry operators are eligible for a subsidy of up to 80 per cent of the cost for projects that reduce carbon emissions. Several operators are keen on opting for LNG fuel, the report said.

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