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India is set to test using liquefied natural gas (LNG) to power fishing boats ahead of stricter international rules on marine fuel emissions next year, in a move that could help an underused LNG terminal in the south of the country.

The South Asian country’s Kerala Development and Innovation Strategic Council (K-DISC), which is a think-tank and advisory body set up by the government of the southern state of Kerala, issued an expression of interest (EOI) this week for a pilot project to use LNG to fuel a fishing boat.

It is looking to retrofit an existing marine diesel engine system in a fishing boat currently in the city of Kochi to enable it to operate on both LNG and diesel in what is known as a dual fuel system.

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Fishing boats are typically fuelled by diesel, but a new regulation by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) that limits the sulphur content of fuel used in ships by 2020 could push governments to explore the use of cleaner fuels.

LNG is not widely used in the fishing industry due to limited bunkering infrastructure and high costs.

But with the Kochi LNG terminal in southern India being underutilized due to lack of infrastructure connecting the terminal to the main gas demand areas within the region, the government could be exploring ways to increase the terminal’s utilization, Poorna Rajendran, a consultant at FGE said.

“Petronet LNG Ltd, the operator of Kochi LNG terminal, has in the past leased out storage capacity for reloading to increase the terminal’s utilization,” he said.

“Supporting the use of LNG as a marine fuel would also increase the terminal’s utilization.”

The project will also involve the installation of an LNG fuel storage tank and other associated equipment and pipelines by modifying the boat hull, according to the EOI.

K-DISC has asked for the work to be done in 18 weeks and is requesting proposals by Sept. 7, with commercial bids to be submitted by late October.

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“It is still early days for LNG bunkering in Kerala and in India as it would require substantial investments from ship owners,” FGE’s Rajendran added.

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