ENGAGED in R&D since its establishment in 2007, Keppel Offshore & Marine Technology Centre (KOMtech) was recognised for its achievements in developing innovative solutions for the marine sector at the biennial Singapore International Maritime Awards in April this year by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).
The research and development (R&D) arm of Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) was awarded the Outstanding Maritime R&D and Technology Award for its design of an ASD tug with a 65-tonne bollard pull capacity which can run on both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and diesel fuel.
Keppel O&M is today a global leader in offshore rig design, construction and repair, ship repair and conversion, and specialised shipbuilding.
KOMtech's new tug design project is a wholly in-house R&D effort and the tug uses LNG which is a greener and cheaper fuel than the current marine fuel oil.
The dual-fuel engine tug design was developed at a time when natural gas is rising in importance as an energy resource and alternative marine fuel globally. KOMtech's focus on LNG solutions is also in line with MPA's objective of establishing Singapore as an LNG bunkering port by 2020.
"While a number of companies have been developing LNG fuel gas systems (LFGS) for ships, most designs face technical challenges with more improvements needed to achieve a higher level of safety and fuel efficiency," says Nigel Koh, senior programme manager, ship and marine Technology, KOMtech.
"With these challenges to overcome in mind, KOMtech started developing an LFGS with a robust LNG vaporiser for marine applications since 2012. The fruit of the research - an innovative and patented LNG vaporiser design which was incorporated into the tug design - successfully brings together all the advantages of the existing LNG vaporiser in the market."
Compared to other LNG vaporisers, KOMtech's system has the advantages of being lower in capital expenditure and operating cost. It is also more compact and safer.
Apart from the LNG vaporiser and LFGS, KOMtech also incorporates smart designs into its tug to enhance safety and comfort. For instance, the LNG vent and piping are arranged in such a way that the accommodation quarters in the lower deck area are situated away from the potential danger zone, says Dr Koh.
The LNG fuel is also carried in containerised, type-C ISO-certified tanks on the main deck, and re-fuelling can be as simple as replacing the empty tanks with replenished ones.
The tug operating on LNG fuel meets regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships.
KOMtech's R&D focus is in the development and design of offshore vessels, such as jack-up rigs, for harsh environment, semi/ship type floaters for deep water exploration, specialised vessel designs, such as offshore windmill installation and LNG systems.
Some of the innovations in the offshore oil rig designs are an automated high capacity rack and pinion elevating system, versatile spudcan designs and automated self-positioning and skidding cantilevers. Its current research staff strength is about 90, with about 50 having a master's degree or higher.
To further its research into new areas, Keppel and the National University of Singapore set up the Keppel Corporate Laboratory in 2013 to create a synergistic industry-university partnership to pursue research thrusts in Future Systems, Future Yards and Future Resources, including technology for oil and gas exploration and production in ultra deep water and arctic environments, and exploration and exploitation of rich mineral resources in the oceans.
KOMtech focuses on both deep water technology and shallow water technology. The deep water technology arm looks into areas such as seabed nodule harvesting, deepwater and ultra-deepwater drillships, ultra harsh environment drilling semisubmersibles (semis), tension leg platforms, innovative dry tree semisubmersible (E-Semi), innovative ship designs and shipyard technology to improve shipyard processes and productivity.
The shallow water technology arm looks into areas such as Arctic jackup design, offshore wind solutions, LNG applications, environmental and drilling solutions.
KOMtech engages in technology foresight, conceptualises next generation solutions for the market, conducts R&D to create prototypes and works with early adopters before the designs are handed over to the Keppel O&M business units for commercialisation.
Through its R&D work, KOMtech has also developed designs of ice class supply vessel and multipurpose duty rescue vessel. These vessels are capable of breaking 800mm to 1000mm level ice in shallow draft condition. These designs add to the value chain in KOMtech and contribute to Singapore's position as a maritime hub.
In March 2014, Keppel Singmarine secured three shipbuilding contracts from Bumi Armada Offshore Holdings Limited - a subsidiary of Bumi Armada Berhad - to build two ice class Arc 4 supply vessels and an ice class Arc 5 multi-purpose duty-rescue vessel.
The function of these vessels is to support offshore platforms at the Vladimir Filanovsky oil field in the northern part of the Caspian Sea, providing year-round services such as the delivery of cargoes, salvage, search and rescue functions, fire-fighting operations, and towing and tanker mooring operations.
Both the ice class supply and ice class multi-purpose duty rescue vessels are capable of breaking open floating first year ice of thickness 600mm to 800mm (RMRS Arc 4) and 800mm to 1,000mm (RMRS Arc 5) level ice in shallow draft condition respectively.
To help address the challenges of operating a deepwater oil field development throughout its life cycle, KOMtech is also working on a range of solutions for the maintenance of production units.