To reduce shipping’s carbon footprint, LNG is the cleanest available marine fuel, with a maturing bunkering infrastructure and supply chain and a pathway to lower carbon and zero-carbon fuels. That pathway shouldn’t be abandoned as suggested by a recent World Bank report.
While LNG is not a perfect solution because it is still a fossil fuel, it does move shipping in the right direction. A recent study by Sphera commissioned by industry coalitions SEA/LNG and the Society of Gas as a Marine Fuel (SGMF) released in April shows the significant environmental benefits that can be captured using LNG as a marine fuel. The study, 2nd Lifecycle GHG Emission Study on the use of LNG as a Marine Fuel, reports using LNG as a fuel can result in greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions of up to 23%. CO2 emissions are reduced as much as 25%.
LNG is an on ramp to shipping’s highway to decarbonisation, providing a bridge to low-carbon and carbon-neutral bioLNG (which is available and being used today) and synthetic LNG.
Total supplied bioLNG for CMA CGM Jacques Saade – the largest LNG-fuelled container ship in the world – in testing in November 2020.
The battle lines are already being drawn around future low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels, with camps lining up for ammonia, hydrogen, methanol and LNG and their green and blue cousins. LNG, however, is the only marine fuel available now at scale, with a maturing bunkering infrastructure and commercially viable. There are still a great deal of unknowns about the availability, technologies, regulations and infrastructure around X-fuels.
But as AET global director, DP shuttle tankers Captain Amit Pal pointed out at the recent Total Marine LNG Forum, using LNG alone will not reach IMO’s 2050 GHG reduction targets. However, Captain Pal said combining LNG as a fuel with technologies such as volatile organic compound (VOC) capture, batteries, hull modifications and wind turbines will provide greater CO2 and GHG reductions. AET operates two LNG-fuelled dynamic positioning shuttle tankers.
“LNG is the best solution available - we can’t just wait and watch,” said Captain Pal.
“When it comes to addressing climate change, shipping can’t go it alone”
But when it comes to addressing climate change, shipping can’t go it alone. That’s because the sector’s decarbonisation will largely depend on the availability of future zero-carbon fuels and the retrofit of existing vessels with propulsion technologies that will advance those goals.
This was highlighted by International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) in April: “The decarbonisation of international shipping will depend on out-of-sector stakeholders developing market-available zero-carbon technologies and fuels and the maritime sector will need the technologies to use these. The urgency of the challenge requires leadership and a properly co-ordinated approach to catalyse and incentivise the transition to zero-emissions sector.”
Joined by BIMCO, CLIA, the World Shipping Council and others, ICS has submitted a proposal to IMO to push forward its discussions around market-based measures. “These measures will be critical to incentivise the transition of the global fleet to new fuels and technologies, which will be more expensive than those in use today,” says ICS.
That price difference between today’s fuels and X-fuels is another unknown. ICS sees the use of these market-based measures as a way of putting a price on CO2 emissions which will provide an economic incentive for shipping to reduce its emissions by narrowing the price gap between fossil fuels and zero-carbon fuels. Instead of the EU going alone with its emissions trading system, a global approach would provide a level playing field for shipowners. ETS models have proven to be effective in other markets.
What the industry should avoid is regional, patchwork or prescriptive approaches that rule out lower carbon fuels such as LNG that allow shipowners to cut GHG and CO2 emissions. Shipowners should be able to decide their path to decarbonisation, and LNG is a good first step on the journey to a better environment.