How LFC biodigesters can tackle Europe’s LNG discharge dilemma

March 7, 2023

3 minutes, 17 seconds read

How LFC biodigesters can tackle Europe’s LNG discharge dilemma

LNG vessels are an essential part of the global energy supply chain. They transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) from production facilities to markets across the world. Since Russia has cut off natural gas supplies to many European countries, the US has begun exporting more LNG to Europe. However, European ports do not have the infrastructure to accommodate this new wave of LNG tankers. 

“The wave of LNG tankers has overwhelmed the ability of the European regasification facilities to unload the cargoes in a timely manner,” said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates.

According to MarineTraffic, many of these LNG tankers are idling around northwest Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Iberian Peninsula. Since the LNG tankers are unable to offload the natural gasses, this has caused a drastic price increase as demand greatly outpaces supply. The impact is not just monetary. Environmental effects are slowly brewing each day the LNG tankers sit in idle waters.

The problem is that LNG tankers aren’t allowed to discharge organic waste since they are too close to shore. This is due to regulations from the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that require vessels to dispose of their waste in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner. 

According to Annex IV of MARPOL – Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships, the ship must discharge waste at a distance of more than 3 nautical miles from the nearest land.

Violation of these regulations can result in heavy fines and legal repercussions for the vessel owner and operator. LNG ships have several options to comply with MARPOL, each of which has different results.

Pay a barge to help offload waste to shoreShort term solution with high recurring fees
Store waste onboard until they can reach shoreLimited space onboard; rotting waste releases methane
Incinerate wasteEliminates waste but has the highest environmental impact
Utilize a food pulper Macerates waste to condense size but has limitations on what can go in the machine
Use a food waste digesterTurns all solid waste to grey water

Fortunately, there is a solution that can help LNG vessels meet these compliance requirements and discharge organic waste in a responsible manner. Food waste biodigesters are an innovative technology that can help solve the problem of organic waste discharge for LNG vessels.

A food waste digester is a machine that can turn organic waste into grey water. The technology is ideal for use on ships, because it is compact, uses minimal utilities, and can be easily installed in a small space. This means that LNG vessels can use the LFC biodigester to treat organic waste on board and dispose of it in a responsible manner, without violating any regulations. 

The LFC-300 biodigester featured in the galley of a ship amongst other stainless steel equipment.

Golar Freeze is an FSRU which accepts LNG from a ship and sends it to shore as needed. In 2019, the Golar Freeze was stationed in Jamaica and the vessel owners realized that disposing of food waste was expensive. They wanted to future proof their vessel by implementing new technology that would help with waste regulations. 

The usual method involves storing waste food in a refrigerator and transporting it ashore, typically several times a month. The captain chose to invest in an LFC-50 biodigester from Power Knot that was installed later that year. Since then, Golar Freeze has continued to use the LFC-50 biodigester to remain compliant with the local regulations, and optimize their food waste logistics.

“We are very happy with the performance of the LFC-50 biodigester,” said Gabriele Pipitone, Vessel Manager of Golar Freeze. Golar Freeze’s waste management has remained unaffected by the port queues.

Biodigesters are a promising solution for LNG vessels that need to discharge organic waste in European ports while meeting MARPOL and DOJ compliance requirements. The technology can help vessels reduce their environmental impact while supporting sustainable waste management practices. 

Contact Power Knot today to see if an LFC biodigester is the right solution for your ship.