Natural Gas-Fueled Towboat To Be Built in Ohio Valley
11 November 2015
By Casey Junkins, Staff Writer
RAYLAND - Development of the area's Marcellus and Utica shale
reserves may allow towboats that power barges along the Ohio River
to run on natural gas rather than diesel fuel, a measure that
would both reduce dependence on foreign energy sources and
mitigate air pollution.
Tuesday, officials with the Pittsburgh-based Clean Fuels Clean
Rivers organization joined Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, members of
the U.S. Coast Guard and local leaders to confirm plans to convert
the M/V Ron Chris towboat to run on liquefied natural gas, rather
than diesel fuel. The project is funded by a $730,000 grant from
the U.S. Maritime Administration.
As the first project of its kind in the nation, organizers said
the location in Rayland was chosen for two reasons: the steady
supply of local natural gas and its location along the Ohio River,
which meets the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at Pittsburgh.
"Inside the 500-mile circle surrounding Pittsburgh sits the single
largest energy supply going," Robert H. Beatty Jr., director of
technology and government affairs for Pittsburgh Region Clean
Cities, said. "We have the perfect storm right under our feet."
Liquefied natural gas, commonly known as LNG, should not be
confused with natural gas liquids, or NGLs, which consist of
ethane, butane, propane and other wet gases. Liquefied natural gas
typically is methane - the same gas used to heat homes - that is
"cooled until it becomes a liquid and then safely stored at
essentially atmospheric pressure," according to the International
Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for the Pittsburgh region and
the entire Ohio River community, (the) heart of the Marcellus and
Utica shale plays, to demonstrate this innovative application for
natural gas," said Lutitia Clipper, CEO of Clipper Enterprises and
the project manager. "There are more than 500 inland towing
vessels operating in the region.
These include both regional and non-regional operators. There are
261 regional towboats operating in the Pittsburgh area, and almost
65 percent are in the harbor vessel category.
"This will allow us to make our air cleaner and our water more
pure," she added.
The Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions at West
Virginia University is also involved in the project. This center
recently received acclaim for its work that found several
Volkswagen and Audi vehicles allegedly emitted pollution up to 40
times the level allowed by the federal Clean Air Act.
The two-year project involves converting the towboat to run on LNG
and then performing significant tests to ensure that it produces
less emissions than the diesel-powered version.
"We hope the study will show that LNG is a good alternative fuel
for a towboat," Susan Oliver, spokeswoman for Clean Fuels Clean
In May, Dominion Resources received final federal approval to
export 770 million cubic feet of LNG daily from its $3.8 billion
Cove Point site in Maryland.
With the process of converting towboats to operate on natural gas,
the delivery mechanism for the LNG could also run on the fuel.
Johnson briefly addressed the crowd on the overall state of the
local industry as he sees it. He said the $5.7 billion PTT Global
Chemical ethane cracker - for which the company has agreed to
spend $100 million for engineering and design plans -- could lead
to a resurgence of the manufacturing base once prevalent along the
"We've got companies right now that are looking at where they can
locate along this river," Johnson said, adding this is due to the
relatively cheap supply of energy they can get from natural gas.