Germany-based Caterpillar Marine has launched the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) test bed for gas-fuelled engines at its facility in Kiel.

The new LNG preparation wing features an LNG tank and a gas preparation unit. Both the units are 40t in size and have been developed and provided by Marine Service.

The wing will enable Caterpillar Marine to familiarise itself with LNG capabilities and subsequently demonstrate the benefits of LNG to its clients. Testing and improvement works involving the company's various LNG components will also be conducted at the newly opened unit.

In addition, the facility will help Caterpillar Marine develop LNG plants for actual operations, as well as aid training initiatives regarding the safe use of LNG and other associated issues.

Caterpillar Marine engineering supervisor Georg Gillert said: “LNG offers obvious benefits to marine power and it’s considered a true future fuel.

“It burns cleaner than other fuels, emitting low amounts of nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), particulate matter and carbon dioxide.

“When handled properly, LNG offers a clear path to regulation compliance with all current and future standards.”

Caterpillar Marine has already developed the MaK brand of dual fuel engines, which are capable of running on either marine diesel oil (MDO) or natural gas.

"Caterpillar’s LNG test bed in Kiel is a milestone in LNG development; while LNG is a promising fuel, it does offer unique challenges."

Gillert further added: “Caterpillar’s LNG test bed in Kiel is a milestone in LNG development; while LNG is a promising fuel, it does offer unique challenges.

“LNG has to be kept at extremely low temperatures to prevent it from vaporising, and this requires additional gas handling components not found in other power systems. New engine and gas handling architecture is needed to take full advantage of LNG’s emissions benefits.

“Customised monitoring and control processes will also be needed to optimize fuel / air composition and safe engine operation.”

Caterpillar Marine currently comprises a global network of more than 2,100 sales and service dealers.

Image: Caterpillar Marine’s new liquefied natural gas test bed in Kiel, Germany. Photo: courtesy of Caterpillar.