WSF considering LNG propulsion | FerryFare

Nels Suldan has relieved the ever-genteel Paul Lundy on our Ferry Advisory Committee.

Nels Suldan has relieved the ever-genteel Paul Lundy on our Ferry Advisory Committee.

The MV Skagit, a former Vashon Island ferry, capsized July 18 while running between Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar, killing up to 146 people. Designed for the Gulf of Mexico, Skagit wasn’t a good fit here and was sold off, along with the Kalama, in 2011. Kingston’s June public ferry meeting included the following updates:
— Liquid Natural Gas, or LNG, propulsion is being ogled by WSF and BC Ferries to rein in “runaway” fuel costs (surging up 140 percent in six years). The design scheme was approved by the Coast Guard and detailed plans are under way. The first Issaquah-class ferry could be converted to LNG by in 2014. By cutting fuel costs 40-50 percent, the conversion would pay for itself by 2021.

LNG eradicates sulfur and particulate emissions and knocks nitrous oxide down by 90 percent. This meets foreseeable clean air standards and may also double engine life. WSF will truck LNG in from out of state until a “liquefaction” plant can be set up here.

One in five buses nationwide use natural gas and there’s been only one LNG vehicle fire since the 1970s. Norway has been running LNG ferries since 2000 without incident. The reasons are: 1) Natural gas is less flammable than either gasoline or diesel as it takes a higher temperature and concentration in air burn* and 2) Lighter than air, natural gas dissipates if it leaks.

So why the boat gas explosions? Most boat stoves use propane which, being heavier than air, can settle in the bilge and KABOOM!  Ventilation is crucial; for example, our LNG tanks will be on the ferry’s upper deck.

LNG engines can be new or converted from diesel and operate with either single LNG fuel or “dual fuel.” The latter can run on either diesel or LNG but normally use 1 percent diesel to ignite the LNG. As diesel tanks will be needed for the ferry’s electrical generators, dual fuel engines make a lot of sense.

*Flammability for natural gas, gasoline and diesel are, respectively: percent in air to burn — 5 percent, 1.4 percent and 0.6 percent; ignition temperature — 842ºF, 572ºF, and 446ºF.

— Reservations are being used to sidestep the cost of adding boat and holding area capacity. They should also put an end to the agonizing traffic lines on State Route 104. The San Juan Islands’ commercial traffic, Anacortes-Sidney and Port Townsend reservations were converted to the new system. Next year, all commercial vehicles may get reservations. If all that works, reservations come to Kingston in about 2015. Even with reservations, some room will be saved for the cars that just show up. A deposit is required equal to the senior/disabled fare. It’s refunded if you cancel 24 hours beforehand and, if you miss your reservation, the deposit can be applied to a later sailing.

— Construction on a 144-car ferry started in March after more than a decade in planning. The two Olympic Class ferries started this year will replace the Evergreen State and Hiyu and will be used in the San Juans, Mukilteo and maybe Bremerton. The well-distributed, single-bid contract is with Seattle’s Vigor (previously Todd) as lead, Whidbey’s Nichols Bros. and Tacoma’s Jesse Engineering. Three 144’s were planned to eventually replace Kingston’s Jumbos, but that was before the boat price ballooned from $87 million to $147 million.

I’m with the chowderheads who want one of the boats named the “Ivar.”

— FerryFare is written by Walt Elliott, chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee. Elliott is also a Kingston port commissioner.