Japanese technology firms Osaka Gas and Daihatsu Diesel have secured approval in principle (AIP) from Japanese ship classification society Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK) for their joint project on an LPG Reformer for marine engines.

It is the first AIP granted for this type of equipment in Japan.

According to ClassNK, the LPG reformer has been designed to convert LPG into synthetic methane gas, equivalent to the gas found in liquefied natural gas (LNG).

LPG is consists of mainly propane and butane and is, therefore, vulnerable to abnormal combustion. As a result, using LPG as a fuel for lean-burn gas engines and dual-fuel engines is difficult.

By changing LPG into synthetic methane gas with the help of the LPG reformer prior to the engine fuelling, the risks of abnormal combustion can be controlled. The system helps to deliver equivalent operational performance observed when using LNG.

Using LPG as fuel helps to cut the emission of environmentally harmful substances such as sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx).

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LPG use will enable the ships to meet the 2020 IMO SOx regulation.

The International Code of Safety for Ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels (IGF Code) applies when LPG is used as a marine fuel.

However, the existing IGF Code does not deal with specific regulations for alternative fuels other than LNG.

In June, to address this issue, ClassNK published guidelines for ships using low-flashpoint fuels such as methyl, ethyl alcohol and LPG.

The guidelines summarise safety requirements for other feasible alternative fuels apart from LNG.