LNG bunkering infrastructure is unlikely to be viable for supplying zero-emission fuels according to a new study called Zero-Emission Vessels: Transition Pathways jointly authored by Lloyd’s Register and the University College of London’s Maritime Advisory Service (UMAS).
The study challenges the argument that the croyongenic infrastructure required to support LNG as a marine fuel could be reused with liquefied hydrogen made from renewable sources.
UMAS principal consultant Dr Carlo Raucci, one of the authors of the study,says the repurposing of the current LNG bunkering network to carry liquefied hydrogen is “not a realistic scenario”. Although both LNG and hydrogen require cryogenic treatment, their temperatures when liquefied are so far apart (-160°C and −253°C respectively) that conversion for hydrogen would need different cooling equipment and insulation to be retrofitted. This could be as expensive as building new infrastructure. The authors believe that clean hydrogen or ammonia will initially be delivered through small-scale bunkering instead.
The new study investigated shipping’s energy transition based on three scenarios in 2050. In one, renewable electricity (including fuels like hydrogen generated by electricity) dominates the fuel mix. Another is driven by biomass fuels. In the third, fossil fuels remain an important part of the mix, characterised by the use of natural gas with carbon capture and storage.
Dr Raucci suggested there could be a role for LNG infrastructure under the third scenario, as part of which the study envisions natural gas being used to make hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen would still be derived from fossils but would offer a better emission profile in operation. Under this scenario, the current LNG network could be used to supply natural gas as a feedstock for hydrogen.
The continuing use of LNG infrastructure has been a core argument for investment in the alternative fuel. In July last year, the SEA\LNG consortium promoting gas as a marine fuel noted that “today’s investments will not become stranded and offer further potential to progress towards a zero- emission solution for shipping”