LNG as fuel finds new recruits in the container ship sector, while scrubbers can play a role in the transition to e-fuels, say panellists at a Riviera Maritime Media webinar
It is no surprise that the first container ship to be bunkered with LNG in the Port of Singapore would be controlled by the CMA CGM Group. The French container ship giant has a strong commitment to LNG as a fuel as the best available solution to meet near-term CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals. By the end of 2022, it will have taken delivery of 32 LNG-fuelled container ships in its fleet.
The first of these LNG-fuelled box ships to bunker in Singapore was CMA CGM Scandola, one of CMA CGM Group’s pool of liners in its MEX 1 service. The milestone refuelling in March was also the first ship-to-ship operation by FueLNG’s FueLNG Bellina, Singapore’s new ‘smart’ LNG bunkering vessel. Adding to the gravity of the occasion, the refuelling marked the first simultaneous cargo and LNG bunkering operations for a ship in Asia.
CMA CGM says the use of LNG enables a reduction of 99% in SOx, 91% in particulate matter emissions and 92% in NOx emissions, far surpassing the requirements of current regulations. LNG also provides an initial solution to the challenge of tackling climate change. An LNG-powered vessel emits up to 20% less CO2 than conventional marine fuel-powered systems.
CMA CGM Scandola is the first of six new 15,000-TEU LNG-powered, ultra-large container ships (ULCSs) CMA CGM Group will bunker in Singapore this year. These ships will be deployed on CMA CGM’s MEX 1 service between Asia and the Mediterranean.
CMA CGM Scandola is part of a growing fleet of container ships built with LNG dual-fuel engines. Of the 197 LNG-fuelled vessels in operation and 257 under construction, 15 are box ships in the active fleet, and another 43 are on order, according to DNV’s Alternative Fuel Insight platform. One-third of the LNG-fuelled vessel orders in Q1 2021 were for container ships, according to Gibson Shipbrokers.
“The container sector has really taken to LNG as a fuel,” says the UK-based ship brokerage, commenting on the recent spate of box ship newbuild orders. Gibson notes recent orders placed by Hapag-Lloyd for six 23,000-TEU vessels at DSME, CMA CGM’s four 22,000-TEU vessels, along with its nine 15,000-TEU vessels and Eastern Pacific Shipping’s 10 14,800-TEU container ships, all at HHI.
“The orderbook for LNG-fuelled vessels continues to find new recruits, as owners see the immediate benefits of utilising the fuel,” says the shipbroker. While it notes hydrogen and other low- and zero-carbon alternatives being seen as future fuels, Gibson says “the transition to new fuels will be based on vessel replacement and fleet expansion, meaning this could potentially take several decades for the fleet to move fully to renewable fuels. In the meantime, LNG will continue to provide an alternative to conventional fuels in the medium-term.”
Scrubbers bridge the gap
Of course, one size and one flavour of fuel does not fit all in shipping. Even those with strong LNG credentials want operational flexibility. CMA CGM, for example, recently announced they will order up to 20 wide-beam conventionally fuelled Panamax box ships fitted with scrubbers. Gibson says the reasoning behind this decision is the 5,000-TEU vessels are too small to install LNG bunker tanks – which can be space intensive
Scrubber technology, in fact, has an important role to play in shipping’s transition from fossil fuels to so-called synthetic e-fuels which are produced using renewable energy, according to panellists at a recent Riviera webinar, produced with premier partner Yara Technologies.
Speaking at Scrubbers: bridging the gap to zero emissions, SINTEF Ocean chief maritime scientist Dr Elizabeth Lindstad noted e-fuels can be extremely energy hungry and, if the electricity is generated by fossil fuels or fossil fuel-dependent sources, extremely emissions heavy.
Dr Lindstad put the results of her calculations quantifying energy density, output and emissions succinctly, “the big question is, where shall we get all this renewable energy to make these e-fuels from?
“If you want all ships to be fuelled by e-fuels… we need much more energy from renewable sources than the total production today and… we should rather use this electricity to replace coal-fired power plants,” she said.
“If we instead use that electricity to replace these coal-fired plants, we can cut global [GHG] emissions by 15-20%,” Dr Lindstad said, whereas, in comparison, “the amount of electricity which we need to make all these e-fuels and synthetic e-fuels will just give a 3-4% reduction of the global GHG emissions we use if we use it to make shipping fuels.”
Taking Dr Lindstad’s point, Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association (EGCSA) director Don Gregory said abating fossil fuel emissions – and by implication continuing to use fossil fuels – is a necessary step in decarbonisation, and he characterised renewable fuels’ lack of capacity to fully replace fossil fuels as an “inconvenient truth”.
Mr Gregory said “if we don’t focus on reducing our emissions of CO2 today, we’re going to have great difficulty in meeting the challenges tomorrow that we need to meet with renewable fuels”.
Scrubbers can provide a path to fighting carbon emissions, particulate matter and other pollutants as environmental restrictions on the shipping sector continue to tighten.
“We strongly believe abatement solutions will also play a role in decarbonising shipping,” said Wärtsilä exhaust treatment division manager Aslak Suopanki. “We know that carbon capture and storage or CCS is technically feasible.”
Mr Suopanki cited developments in scrubber technology for land-based industry using solvents, membrane separation and cryogenic separation to capture carbon, saying refinements to the technologies may make the process feasible for shipping.
Scrubber manufacturer Yara Marine Technologies sees carbon capture as one of several potential future directions. As the company’s head of sales and marketing Aleksander Askeland put it, his business’s “end goal is to at least eliminate the scrubber in its current form”.
Stressing the evolutionary approach and success of his company as a market innovator, Mr Askeland said “This is a bridging technology, and we need to think ahead: how can we stay relevant? How can we come up with new technologies, new ambitions to cover the gap?”
Mr Askeland said his company had managed to capitalise on a solution that was “ripe” for the market, and he said the success had a lot to do with how effective the technology is. When installed, scrubbers virtually eliminate sulphur oxides (SOx) from ship emissions.
Mr Askeland also noted that not enough attention was paid to scrubbers’ relatively lower carbon footprint than other sulphur cap compliance methods. Scrubbers’ comparative CO2 reductions – measured by well-to-wake calculations – are estimated to be between 10-20% over vessels burning low sulphur fuel oils (LSFOs).
“This is sometimes lost in the dialogue, that there is a very clear benefit [to using scrubbers as opposed to LSFOs]. There are thousands of ships using this technology today,” he said.
Class society DNV’s head of environmental certification for maritime Fabian Kock pointed out that another challenge for scrubber uptake is that GHG regulations, in their existing form, give no benefit to shipowners using scrubbers. Currently, carbon footprints are being calculated on a tank-to-propeller approach, he said, leaving out the production processes of fuel oils which can add significant weight to total carbon emissions.
“To gain a benefit also in the CO2 certificates, IMO needs to define and also agree on lifecycle analysis considerations to reflect the total carbon footprint of the fuel and technologies being used,” Mr Kock said.
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