Making the case for natural gas over diesel

Ferries running on natural gas have saved money and run for five years in Norway, nearly without incident, an executive told hundreds of diesel users today in Houston.

The talk was aimed at users of some of the largest, heaviest and most power-intensive equipment that have been tied to diesel for decades.

On the second day of the three-day High Horsepower Summit 2012 in Houston, representatives from companies that haul massive loads from mines, run trains, operate oil field drilling equipment or have fleets of heavy-duty trucks, heard the case for using natural gas over diesel.

Oscar Bergheim, operations manager for Norwegian ferry operator the Fjord1 Group, said that switching five vessels to natural gas has made sense.

“In the beginning, we thought the maintenance costs would be somewhat higher than on the Diesel engine,” Bergheim said. “The history has shown that the cost from having a gas engine is about the same as for a Diesel engine and it is very popular for our staff to work on these engines. Everything is clean, it’s high-tech.”

Viking Cruise Lines is in the process of building and testing a 2,800-passenger vessel, which is planned to begin operations in January 2013.

Trong Jerve, head of clean energy business development for an LNG team of Linde Group in Norway, said his company worked on construction of a refueling barge that could bring LNG to the new Viking Grace ship and refuel it in 45 minutes.

There was one caveat about the refueling barge, however, Jerve said.

“Unfortunately it is running on diesel, because it was not able to install gas engines on board,” he said.

The conference, on natural gas for high-horsepower applications, concludes Friday and has so far featured speakers from Canadian National Railway and Caterpillar, who are in the process of using, developing, or selling vehicles running on natural gas.