The giant vessels that criss-cross the world’s oceans keeping homes and industries supplied with oil and gas might look like they will last forever, but in reality they have a life-span of just 20 years or so. Take into account the changing commercial demands put upon them, as well as the increasingly rigorous regulatory environment, and a typical, useful career likely extends to 15 years for tankers before they need replacement.
Where there’s necessity, however, there’s also opportunity. And BP is using its latest regular fleet rejuvenation programme to introduce new technologies that make its ships safer, more efficient and better for the environment.
A total of 32 new vessels are setting sail between early 2016 and March 2019. These include crude oil tankers, product carriers and a new generation of modern, technically advanced liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers. Here are some of the new features on board these giants of the ocean:
All the new ships feature the latest innovations in propulsion. The tankers and product carriers have super long stroke ‘G-type’ engines, for example. These have significantly lower revolutions per minute than their predecessors and can be programmed electronically to a desired speed and power depending on conditions, allowing them to meet the industry’s energy efficiency design index requirements for ships contracted after 2020.
“Each of the new ships will use about 10% less fuel than those they’re replacing,” says Steve Huddart, BP Shipping’s project technical manager for the new programme. “For our efficiency index, we have a minimum target of 22% below the industry benchmark…some of the new ships will actually achieve more than 26% below.”
The LNG vessels, meanwhile, will have state-of-the-art ‘slow speed’ dual fuel engines – powered by liquid as usual or pressurised 300bar gas – which are widely recognised as the most efficient around. Here, BP expects to see an improvement in fuel consumption of 25%.
Efficiency is set to further improve with significant hull design improvements. These designs are based on extensive computational fluid dynamics and physical modelling to check computer estimations on parameters such as speed and manoeuvrability. In addition, cavitation tunnel testing replicates the full-scale marine environment to assess aspects such as vibration and erosion.
The business has also successfully sea-trialled a power-saving device known as the ‘Mewis Duct’ on some of its new vessels. By improving the flow of water into the propeller, this is expected to reduce fuel consumption by 5%, so it will now be fitted to other ships in the building programme.
Every percentage point of efficiency equates to lower emissions. An exhaust gas scrubber on some of the new ships will further reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide emitted, enabling BP to trade in parts of the world where regulations are most stringent, while an exhaust gas recirculation system will have the same impact on nitrogen dioxide. These different technical features are applied to vessel designs based on the type of trade that the ship will conduct.
Fact file: BP's new fleet
9 X Aframax crude oil tankers – R Class – British Respect, British Renown, British Reliance, British Resource, British Rigour, British Resolution, British Regard, British Restraint, British Reason
9 x Handymax product carriers – Mariner Class – British Mariner, British Navigator, British Seafarer, British Sailor, British Captain, British Chief, British Officer, British Engineer, British Cadet
5 x Handysize product carriers – Cloud Class – British Cumulus, British Nimbus, British Stratus, British Cirrus, British Altus
3 x Suezmax product carriers – Centenary Class – British Century, British Heritage, British Tradition
6 x LNG vessels – yet to be named
Responsible waste disposal is an important concern at sea. On board the new vessels, fuel oil sludge from purifiers will pass through an additional new separator, to recover the fuel and pass the sludge to the incinerator tank. Water, meanwhile, will pass through the oily water separator for cleaning before being disposed, reducing the amount of incineration and, again, recovering the fuel for re-use.
Galley waste will pass through a macerator and shredder, producing slurry that is retained in a tank until it can be discharged. And dry waste will be treated with high duty shredders, glass crushers and a compactor that will bale it for landing ashore.
Safety is inherent in the new designs too. LED lighting is installed in areas where access is difficult, reducing the ‘working at height’ risk for replacing lamps. And the new, bigger and improved accommodation areas not only have crew comfort in mind, with gyms, TV rooms and internet cafes, but also protection against the threat from piracy – more internal stairways (with external ladders and pipework kept to a minimum), windows with internal shutters and access to the lifeboats via internal passages.
“The level of technically advanced systems and new technology that will be employed on these new vessels firmly reinforces BP Shipping’s status as a technical leader in marine hydrocarbon transportation and puts us on track to meet the group’s future requirements,” Huddart says.