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Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) training for first responders: Part 1

Marine Firefighting Inc. has been training Mariners and Firefighters about Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) safety and firefighting tactics for over 14-years. This training had previously been conducted for the few large LNG import terminals in the US. Eventually, the US located massive amounts of natural gas within our own borders. So much so, that we will now be exporting this super cold product instead of importing. Facilities are being converted to now export LNG and many more new facilities are under construction or consideration.

These large import/export facilities have been the subject of several of my previous articles. Many innovative fire detection, prevention, and suppression systems have been incorporated in these facilities. Firefighters and other first responders needed extra specialized training to deal with the hazards found at these facilities. For the remainder of the first responders who were not located near these facilities there has been little or no need for LNG training. But that is changing.

Another result of the new deposits of natural gas, both in the US and also around the world, is that because the supply is now greater than the demand, the price of this clean burning fuel has dropped to half its former price. Due to this cheaper LNG it is therefore now a viable and cost effective alternative to standard heavy fuels. Because of the price reduction LNG is now not only being used to power our ships and smaller vessels, but also our buses, trucks, locomotives, and even construction equipment. Consequently, many first responders who did not have to worry about dealing with LNG fires and emergencies will now have to learn and equip themselves to deal with this issue. Many Fire Departments may not even be aware of LNG re-fueling stations in their response area or that LNG may be traveling through their districts on railroad tank cars and tractor trailers. Even vehicle fires may now have an LNG hazard because many of the vehicles will be powered with LNG. But, for now, lets get back to the ships and boats.

The marine industry has another reason, other than cost, for looking to LNG as a vessel fuel. Very strict environmental regulations have been, and are continuing to be placed on vessel emissions. The marine industry does not have too many alternatives to the heavy fuel oils and diesel fuels it has been using in the past. It can attempt to clean up the emissions by treating the flue gasses being emitted from their vessels which are using the current fuels but this is very costly and it may not meet the expected, more restrictive, future regulations.

Tom Guldner, President of Marine Firefighting Inc. instructs a classroom of Jacksonville, Florida First Responders in the properties of LNG and safety during emergency responses.

Tom Guldner, President of Marine Firefighting Inc. instructs a classroom of Jacksonville, Florida First Responders in the properties of LNG and safety during emergency responses.

Several forward thinking companies have realized that LNG is the only viable alternative and they have been building ships, ferries, and service vessels that will be fueled by LNG. It was a brave step because for many years there has been a, “chicken or the egg” equation which has stymied the advancement of LNG as a fuel. The shipper said, “If I build LNG fueled ships and there is nowhere to fuel it up I will not be able to use my ships”. The LNG industry said,” If I build the bunkering (re-fueling) facilities and no one builds the LNG fueled ships my facility will be idle.”

Well, after several years of that argument preventing any movement in the LNG as a fuel dilemma several companies have come together to “bite the bullet” and forge ahead.

Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE’s) Sea Star Line has built two LNG fueled ships which will operate from Jacksonville, Florida to Puerto Rico. To re-fuel these vessels in Jacksonville, JaxLNG, (a partnership of WesPac Midstream LLC and Pivotal LNG) has started the process of setting up LNG bunkering in their port.

The re-fueling will eventually be done at a dedicated LNG bunkering facility to be constructed in Jacksonville. Until that facility is completed the first re-fueling operations will be done from an LNG tanker truck and later from an LNG bunkering barge which will be brought in until the permanent facility is completed. The first ship bunkering is scheduled for October/November 2015.

Another shipping company, Crowley is constructing two of their own ships to also operate out of the Port of Jacksonville and run to Puerto Rico. These combination container and Roll-On/Roll-Off (ConRo) ships will be in service sometime in 2017.

TOTE’s is also converting two older ships to run on LNG. These vessels will work on the other side of the US out of the Port of Tacoma, Washington. Marine Firefighting Inc. just took part in consulting on the Port risk assessment for the Tacoma Fire Department.

Tacoma will have an LNG bunkering facility and TOTE’s LNG powered vessels will run from Tacoma to Anchorage, Alaska. Until that facility is completed the TOTE ships will be re-fueled by a bunkering barge (photo left by WesPac) which is being built by California’s WesPac Midstream and an affiliate Clean Marine Energy, based in The Netherlands. It will be a 2,200-cubic meter (about 580,000 gallons) LNG barge that will be deployed in early 2016 in Tacoma, where it will serve the 2-TOTE-owned vessels. The bunker barge will eventually be moved to the Port of Jacksonville, Florida, where it will also serve the two new TOTE vessels mentioned before.

All of the companies involved in this Jacksonville project wanted to insure that LNG bunkering would be carried out in the safest manner possible. To this end my company, Marine Firefighting Inc. joined with Gas Technology Institute to deliver an LNG Awareness and LNG Bunkering Safety program to the First responders in Jacksonville.

WesPac Midstream LLC (WesPac) LNG bunkering barge to be used to bunker the TOTE Maritime and Crowley Maritime ships in Jacksonville, Florida.

WesPac Midstream LLC (WesPac) LNG bunkering barge to be used to bunker the TOTE Maritime and Crowley Maritime ships in Jacksonville, Florida.

The program was developed specifically for Port of Jacksonville area stakeholders, especially local first responders, and included firefighters from the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Departments, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, and local area law enforcement agencies. This training was the first step in the future LNG specific training for both mariners and First Responders dealing with the LNG bunkering and storage facilities planned for Jacksonville.

Many areas in the US, Canada, Europe, and in almost every country are using LNG now or are in the process of starting up some form of LNG operation. Very often first responders are either not considered in the training or may have to set up their own training programs. For LNG emergencies to be handled safely all stakeholders should be trained and drilled in a coordinated manner.

This program was an awareness level class dealing with the properties of LNG. The first responders received detailed descriptions of the characteristics of LNG which not only make it a great choice for the marine industry but which will also require specific knowledge, training, tools, and tactical changes to normal firefighting operations. In fact, all first responders will need to make some procedural changes.

In part 2 of this article we will discuss exactly what changes the Jacksonville, Florida first responders were instructed to make.

For more information, go to www.marinefirefighting.com

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