Wasaline’s new Aurora Botnia will use liquefied biogas as part of its fuel mix – an alternative fuel I believe will be increasingly taken up by passenger ship operators
This issue of PST covers Wasaline’s new ferry, which will run on a mix of LNG, batteries and liquefied biogas.
In the interview with PST, Wasaline chief executive Peter Ståhlberg highlights the significance of liquefied biogas. “Some people say this is just an intermediate step, but the advantage of LNG is there is flexibility for the future as later biogas or synthetic gas could be used, so then you have two more options for the future.”
This is the crux of why biogas will be adopted by the passenger ship sector: LNG is increasingly used as a transitional fuel in the path to decarbonisation, and it will allow a relatively smooth transition to liquefied biogas in terms of the technology used, as liquefied biogas can use the same LNG infrastructure. There are also biogas-ready class notations allowing for the conversion from LNG to biogas in the future.
Indeed, Dutch ferry company Doeksen plans to do just that with Willem De Valmingh and its sister ship Willem Barentsz – the Netherlands’ first single-fuel LNG ferries, delivered earlier this year. The vessels will initially run on LNG, which Doeksen regards as a transitional fuel and the operator plans to switch to sustainable liquefied biogas when the necessary infrastructure is in place.
And these are not the only passenger vessels to consider using biogas. Back in 2019, Hurtigruten announced plans to use this fuel alongside LNG and batteries on six vessels it is retrofitting.
The company will use waste material from dead fish, agriculture and forestry.
Its advantages are it is 100% renewable and takes its energy from natural sources. It is available – Hurtigruten plans to use the organic waste produced by Norway’s and northern Europe’s large fishery and forestry sectors to produce liquified biogas for its vessels.
But of course, there are challenges to deploying it. In our feature, Mr Ståhlberg sums up both the benefits and the challenges of deploying biogas as a fuel. “Biogas is equal to almost zero emissions. But it is a challenge to obtain biogas as it must be liquefied and currently its production here [in Finland] is not enough. In the future, it will be a big player on the gas market and will be very important. But the price has to be compatible or supported by government.”
Nevertheless, availability of the gas will grow as suppliers ramp up production.
Mr Stahlberg says that within 1-1.5 years the factory producing biogas should produce enough to allow the ferry operator to start using it.
And Hurtigruten’s project has also kickstarted production on a bigger scale. The Skogn liquid biogas plant, near Trondheim in Norway, will supply the fuel to Hurtigruten’s vessels and new investment will expand biogas production capacity to 35 GWh.
While the use of biogas is currently in its infancy within the maritime sector, it is forecast that biogas will supply 30-40% of Europe’s gas needs by 2050.
According to a report by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) titled The Role of Sustainable Biofuels in the Decarbonisation of Shipping, released in early December 2019, biofuels could be the low-cost option in the pursuit of the gold medal of zero-emissions shipping. The report found, “Biofuels derived from biomass may be an attractive option for the shipping sector and can be used as a feedstock to produce alcohol fuels such as ethanol and methanol, liquified biogas or biodiesel.
There are undoubtedly challenges, but no doubt more ferry and cruise operators will follow in Hurtigruten’s and Wasaline’s footsteps.