First with VOC fuel

June 4, 1999, 10:00 CEST

The world's first shuttle tanker designed to run on fuel recovered from vapour given off by its cargo is due to set sail from Moss south of Oslo today (4 June).

An installation on the 130,000-tonne Navion Viking re-condenses volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and conducts the resulting liquid to the engines. This fuel causes far less pollution than normal bunkers oil.

The idea behind this technology has been developed by Statoil's research centre in cooperation with Danish engine-builder MAN B&W Diesel. Seventeen other oil companies have subsequently joined the work of putting the concept into practice.

Hydrocarbons in a shuttle tanker's cargo tanks give off VOCs during loading and transport of crude oil. If released to the air, these substances get converted into ground-level ozone and smog, which are hazardous to people, plants and animals.

"It's positive when the oil industry joins forces to help Norway meet its international commitment to reduce national emissions of VOCs," comments Øyvind Lund, Statoil's project manager for the VOC Fuel programme.

Together with a number of other countries, Norway has ratified an international treaty to cut the amount of hydrocarbon vapour it releases to the atmosphere by 30 per cent between 1989 and 1999.

A total of 200,000 tonnes of VOCs is emitted annually during offshore loading from Norwegian fields, accounting for 58 per cent of the country's total emissions.

Mr Lund emphasises that recovering this vapour can also provide substantial financial savings in addition to the environmental gain.

A single loading operation on Statfjord with a vessel of Navion Viking's size, for instance, can release as much as 150-200 tonnes of VOCs. The new system can recover 70 per cent of this total, corresponding to 1,500 tonnes of bunkers oil per year.

"We can replace up to 92 per cent of the heavy fuel oil burnt today with recovered VOCs," Mr Lund notes. "That means each vessel can save NOK 3-5 million in annual bunkers costs.