United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Blue Origin, LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced yesterday that they have entered into an agreement to jointly fund development of the new BE-4 rocket engine by Blue Origin.
According to a Blue Origin statement the agreement allows for a four-year development process with full-scale testing in 2016 and first flight in 2019. The BE-4 will be available for use by United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin for both companies’ next generation launch systems.
The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s will power each United Launch Alliance booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. United Launch Alliance is investing in the engineering and development of the BE-4 to enable availability for national security, civil, human and commercial missions. Development of the BE-4 engine has been underway for three years and testing of BE-4 components is ongoing at Blue Origin’s test facilities in West Texas. Blue Origin recently commissioned a new large test facility for the BE-4 to support full engine testing.
Blue Origin noted in a statement that unlike other rocket propellants, such as kerosene, LNG enables autogenous tank pressurization, eliminating the need for costly and complex pressurization systems, such as helium, which is in increasingly scarce supply. The low-cost availability of LNG enables an extended engine development test program. Further, the gaseous properties of LNG simplify decontamination of the engine prior to vehicle installation, while improving operability and safe operation for reuse.
Above: BE-4 Characteristics Source: Blue Origin
To support development of the BE-4, Blue Origin has built a dedicated LNG testing facility near Van Horn, Texas, enabling a rapid test pace. Commissioned in May 2014, the LNG facility can test thrust levels greater than one million pounds-force.
"ULA has put a satellite into orbit almost every month for the past eight years – they’re the most reliable launch provider in history and their record of success is astonishing,” said Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. “The team at Blue Origin is methodically developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability, and the BE-4 is a big step forward. With the new ULA partnership, we’re accelerating commercial development of the next great US-made rocket engine.”
Clean Energy Fuels Corp. and Mansfield Energy Corp. today announced the formation of Mansfield Clean Energy Partners, a joint venture which will provide natural gas fueling solutions to bulk fuel haulers in the United States. Ira G. Pearl will lead the Mansfield Clean Energy Partners team.
MCEP’s first customer will be Mansfield Oil Company, one of the nation’s largest providers of transportation fuel, which has deployed the first of its recently-purchased 12 heavy-duty compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks to haul diesel and gasoline for its customers. This fleet of CNG trucks will fuel at a new Atlanta, Georgia area card-lock natural gas station available to fleets throughout the region. The station was built by Clean Energy and forecasted to open by November 2014. A second natural gas fueling station in Tampa, Florida, which will support additional Mansfield CNG trucks as well as other regional and national bulk fuel haulers, is expected to open in early 2015.
“As a family-owned company, Mansfield is committed to responsibly operating within the communities where we do business,” said Michael Mansfield, CEO of Mansfield. “Creating this partnership with Clean Energy and deploying natural gas trucks is preparing us for the future and will allow other bulk fuel haulers to take advantage of the benefits of clean-burning natural gas.”
MCEP is in advanced discussions with several bulk fuel trucking companies, representing potentially over 100 new heavy-duty CNG trucks. To support these Class 8 natural gas trucks, MCEP will develop new public-access natural gas fueling stations throughout the United States in addition to the Atlanta and Tampa facilities.
LNG Global Promoted Story
Implementing their reputation for traditional pressure cylinders, Worthington Industries makes their mark in the ever-expanding liquefied natural gas (LNG) market. With the help of recent acquisitions and plans for further expansion, Worthington Industries is positioning itself worldwide into the LNG sector.
EXTENDING GLOBAL FOOTPRINT
Launched in 1955 in Columbus, Ohio, as a custom processed flat-rolled steel producer, Worthington Industries has been an industry leader in the development of pressure cylinder technologies for the compressed natural gas (CNG) and other alternative fuel markets over the years. Today, Worthington Industries (NYSE:WOR) is a diversified metals manufacturer with an annual revenue of $3 billion that processes steel to manufacture a wide variety of products from appliances and office furniture to tractors and automobiles, as well as pressure cylinders for industrial, energy and consumer products markets.
Recognizing the needs and growth in the emerging LNG market, Business Manager Jeff Holyoak explains the company’s natural progression into the LNG field. “We’ve been in the energy and alternative fuel storage markets for quite some time, and a LNG offering was a missing component of offering a complete clean fuel storage portfolio.
The move to develop liquid cylinders aimed at the cryogenic and LNG markets began more than two years ago with the acquisition of Aritas, a European manufacturer and leading producer of large cryogenic vessels used for storing and transporting LNG. With a major presence in Asia and Europe, and the 35-years of knowledge and experience Aritas brings to the table, the company was a good fit for Worthington Industries’ entry into the growing LNG market.
“Aritas has been instrumental in building the LNG mobile pipeline and on-board fueling markets throughout Europe for more than a decade,” Holyoak said. U.S.-based James Russell Engineering is another recent addition, adding cryogenic and LNG transport trailers to Worthington’s end-to-end cryogenic storage and transport portfolio. The company has customers in more than 70 countries and has manufacturing facilities in the United States, Austria, Portugal, Poland and Turkey. This global footprint makes Worthington Industries the world’s leading supplier of pressure cylinders. A core competency of tank manufacturing for highly technical, regulated markets extends to serve the Oil and Gas and nuclear industries providing even better accessibility for international growth. Worthington is also planning new, state-of-the-art cryogenics facilities in Europe and the U.S. to meet the growing needs of global LNG fueling and distribution markets. Holyoak said Worthington Industries intends to expand its footprint within the LNG industry in the United States as well as further extend the reach in Europe and Asia.
SOLUTION-DRIVEN FOR THE FUTURE OF LNG
With the numerous advantages LNG provides as an alternative to diesel fuel in high horsepower (HHP) applications and power generation, Worthington Industries intends to be a valuable partner that can effectively service a customer’s full LNG needs.
“We are a global leader in on-board marine fuel systems for fueling cargo ships, ferries, and tugs and have been actively utilizing this expertise to develop products for mine site fueling, both on-board for mine haul trucks and on-site for gen-sets.” Holyoak said. With more than 25,000 large haul trucks in service, the opportunity to generate substantial fuel savings and Tier 4 compliance onsite is driving innovation in this space and Worthington continues to invest in that development as well.
“When someone purchases from us, they don’t just buy a tank, they buy a complete system solution,” Holyoak said. “That’s really what we bring to the table.” Engineering expertise ensures full integration into existing operations, while meeting the strict standards of environmental and safety regulations.
To that end, Worthington Industries stands ready to face the challenges of the emerging LNG field. As CNG remains the alternative fuel choice for many, the technology behind LNG is a step ahead of regulations regarding its use and distribution. Because LNG has been proven to be a lower cost, cleaner-burning fuel than diesel for mine trucks, marine fueling, drilling and frac rigs, some are willing to make the investment for the global benefits of the supply chain infrastructure and applications.
Holyoak explained, “With the exception of long-haul over-the-road trucks, I don’t think we’ve even hit the tipping point in many of these markets. He continued, “Marine fueling is becoming more the norm in Europe and there is strong interest and early infrastructure investment beginning in North America. Mine truck fueling, rail tender fueling, E&P power generation are all at the early adoption stages. Mobile Pipeline infrastructure and power generation are continuing to expand in scale and scope daily.”
Clean Energy Fuels announced today Kenan Advantage Group will deploy 24 additional heavy-duty trucks to haul Clean Energy LNG. Kenan Advantage Group, Clean Energy’s contract carrier for LNG, is scheduled to expand its LNG fleet with 24 additional LNG trucks. KAG has been operating 25 LNG trucks and fueling with Clean Energy since 2013. The trucks will fuel at Clean Energy’s America’s Natural Gas Highway stations in Arizona, California, California, New Mexico and Texas. The Kenan Advantage Group trucks are forecasted to use approximately 400,000 Diesel Gallon Equivalents of LNG per year.
“Expanding our natural gas fleet to haul Clean Energy LNG makes perfect sense since we’re delivering to Clean Energy stations every day. We are excited about the opportunity to continue growing with this valuable customer.” said Mark Davis, president of Jack B. Kelley, a subsidiary of The Kenan Advantage Group.
Modern Transportation is also expanding its LNG fleet in the Mid-Atlantic region. The fleet is currently running a high mileage application for Owens Corning, with each truck traveling nearly 200,000 miles per year.
“Our LNG truck fleet has performed extremely well and we’ll continue to expand this fleet to provide the most environmentally friendly and economical logistics solution to our customers.” said Rich Kushner, vice president of sales, Modern Transportation.
Wärtsilä announced the launch of its SK 5054 MkII ship design, a further development and upgraded version of the SK 5054 design. The Wärtsilä SK 5054 ship design has been used for more than 60 vessels already built and in operation. The upgraded design implements Wärtsilä's LNG fuel technology making it especially applicable to ships that will operate within emission control areas (ECAs).
Wärtsilä noted in a statement this new design offers a 12% increase in energy efficiency over the original SK 5054 design. Other notable features include lower operational costs, an efficient cargo handling arrangement with minimized ballast capacity, an emphasis on ease of maintenance, and a strong focus on crew safety.
"The SK 5054 MkII design effectively raises the bar in terms of innovative designs that emphasize operational efficiency and environmental sustainability. In further improving an established and successful design to make it even better, we are meeting the needs of our customers for the challenges that the industry faces today, and at the same time, helping to take merchant shipping into the gas age," says Riku-Pekka Hägg, Vice President, Wärtsilä Ship Design.
Above: The upgraded SK5054 tanker design.
The U.S. Maritime Administration has released a study examining the options for liquefied natural gas bunkering and the necessary infrastructure, safety, regulatory, and training factors of each in supplying LNG to ships as a propulsion fuel in the maritime sector. The study examines the pros and cons of four bunkering options (truck-to-ship transfer, shore facility-to-ship transfer, ship-to-ship transfer, and transfer of portable tanks) based on factors such as the number and type of vessels to be served, local availability of LNG, port size, congestion and level of activity. The study also makes recommendations to regulators, port operators, vessel operators and LNG infrastructure owners on ways to address the challenges associated with widespread use of LNG as a marine propulsion fuel and provides information to help them decide which method may be most appropriate for their needs. The study is available on the U.S. Maritime Administration website.
Wärtsilä announced today the company has signed a long-term technical management agreement with Harvey Gulf International Marine LLC. Wärtsilä noted the five-year agreement was signed in August 2014 and it covers condition based maintenance and dynamic maintenance planning for eight new offshore supply and multi-purpose support vessels, six liquefied natural gas fuelled platform supply vessels and two offshore construction vessels powered by diesel fuel.
Wärtsilä stated the greement ensures ideal running conditions and optimized maintenance for Harvey Gulf's new vessels. Technical management is based on continuous condition monitoring data and periodical inspections. The agreement also includes Online Remote Operational Support, which enables Wärtsilä to support vessels in real time, without the need for engineers to travel to the vessels.
"We are very pleased to expand our partnership with Harvey Gulf. This agreement reaffirms their commitment to the offshore oil and gas business in the Gulf of Mexico by adding safe and environmentally sustainable LNG fuelled vessels to their modern fleet. With this extended partnership, we will enable the safe and reliable operation of their offshore supply and multi-purpose support vessels throughout their lifecycle," says Walter Reggente, Service Director of Wärtsilä North America.
Above: Harvey Gulf's LNG fuelled Platform Supply Vessel
Skangass announced today the government of Sweeden granted Skangass permission to build and operate a new LNG terminal within the harbor in Gävle, Sweden. Skangass said the company plans to make a final investment decision in the spring of 2015.
Skangass noted they have permission for a storing capacity of 30 000 m3 LNG and a handling of up to 500 000 tonnes LNG each year.
According to Skangass the planned LNG terminal is an important part of the expansion of LNG infrastructure in Sweden and the Baltic Sea. The environmental advantages of using LNG instead of oil based fuel within shipping, industry and heavy transportation will be substantial according to Skangass.
The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) released a study this month that evaluates total fuel cycle emissions for natural gas versus conventional marine fuels. This study was conducted as a part of MARAD’s Maritime Environmental & Technology Assistance program, which focuses efforts on emerging marine transportation and environmental issues.
Results of the study showed that the use of natural gas as a propulsion fuel can reduce air quality pollutants and reduce major greenhouse gas emissions when compared to conventional fuels. The information provided by this study is important as marine transportation stakeholders evaluate the use of natural gas as an alternative propulsion fuel for reducing air polluting emissions. The research was conducted through a cooperative partnership with the Maritime Administration, the University of Delaware and The Rochester Institute of Technology. The study in PDF format can be viewed on the MARAD website here.