Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) has received approval from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to invest $80m to convert its two ORCA-class vessels from diesel power to liquefied natural gas.
The fuel switching project has received a conditional waiver from the current Emissions Control Area (ECA) fuel sulphur content requirements of MARPOL Annex VI regulation 14.4 to use alternative fuels.
The permission has been granted under a public-private partnership (PPP) between TOTE, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the USCG.
According to TOTE, conversion is expected to advance technology and speed up the use of natural gas as a cleaner domestic energy source.
Work on the project includes the engineering, design and installation of the engine kits and construction of the LNG plan, which is expected to take up to five years.
TOTE president John Parrott said that when the Orca class vessels were delivered in 2003, they were purpose-built to serve the Alaska market and exceeded all regulatory and environmental standards.
"Post LNG conversion, the Orca vessels will again set a new standard for environmental responsibility," Parrott said.
Under the plan, four cylindrical insulated tanks will be installed above deck, which will provide the 500,000 gallons of LNG the ships would require in a week during a round trip from Seattle to Anchorage.
Four German-built diesel engines, which indirectly generate electricity to power the vessels’ electric motors, will be used in the vessels.
Following the conversion of the vessels, major emissions reductions are expected to be achieved in all other categories of emissions including particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxide (NOX) and carbon dioxide (CO2), in addition to exceeding the sulphur reduction goals of ECA by 95%.